from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • transitive verb To put into effect; carry out.
  • transitive verb To perform; do: synonym: perform.
  • transitive verb To create (a work of art, for example) in accordance with a prescribed design.
  • transitive verb To make valid, as by signing.
  • transitive verb To perform or carry out what is required by.
  • transitive verb To put to death, especially by carrying out a lawful sentence.
  • transitive verb Computers To run (a program or instruction).

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Executed; accomplished.
  • To follow out or through to the end; perform completely, as something projected, prescribed, or ordered; carry into complete effect; accomplish: as, to execute a purpose, plan, design, or scheme.
  • To perform or do: as, to execute a difficult gymnastic feat; to execute a piece of music.
  • In law: To complete and give validity to, as a legal instrument, by performing whatever is required by law to be done, as by signing and sealing, attestation, authentication, etc.: as, to execute a deed or lease.
  • To perform or carry out fully, as the conditions of a deed, contract, etc.
  • To give effect to; put in force; enforce; as, to execute law or justice; to execute a writ; to execute judgment or vengeance.
  • To perform judgment or sentence on; specifically, to inflict capital punishment on; put to death in accordance with law or the sentence of a court: as, to execute a traitor.
  • Hence To put to death; kill; do to death.
  • To carry out or accomplish a course of action, a purpose, or a plan; produce an effect or result aimed at.
  • To perform a piece of music: as, he executes well.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • intransitive verb rare To do one's work; to act one's part or purpose.
  • intransitive verb To perform musically.
  • transitive verb To follow out or through to the end; to carry out into complete effect; to complete; to finish; to effect; to perform.
  • transitive verb To complete, as a legal instrument; to perform what is required to give validity to, as by signing and perhaps sealing and delivering
  • transitive verb To give effect to; to do what is provided or required by; to perform the requirements or stipulations of.
  • transitive verb To infect capital punishment on; to put to death in conformity to a legal sentence.
  • transitive verb obsolete To put to death illegally; to kill.
  • transitive verb (Mus.) To perform, as a piece of music or other feat of skill, whether on an instrument or with the voice, or in any other manner requiring physical activity.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • verb transitive To kill as punishment for capital crimes.
  • verb transitive To carry out; to put into effect.
  • verb transitive To begin putting into effect.
  • verb transitive To cause to become legally valid; as, to execute a contract.
  • verb transitive, computing To start, launch or run; as, to execute a program.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • verb carry out a process or program, as on a computer or a machine
  • verb murder in a planned fashion
  • verb sign in the presence of witnesses
  • verb carry out or perform an action
  • verb put in effect
  • verb kill as a means of socially sanctioned punishment
  • verb carry out the legalities of


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English executen, from Old French executer, from Medieval Latin execūtāre, from Latin execūtor, executor, from execūtus, past participle of exequī, exsequī, to pursue, carry out : ex-, ex- + sequī, to follow; see sekw- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Latin exsecutus, past participle of exsequor, from ex- ("out") + sequor ("to follow").


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word execute.



Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • Contronymic in the sense of create vs. destroy.

    January 9, 2007

  • Actual quote from an email at work yesterday:

    "Let's get executed."

    The person, of course, meant "let us execute the plan we have discussed" but I can't help but think there is something under the surface. Oh, the quiet desperation of CUBE LIFE.

    June 20, 2009

  • "Let's get executed" !? Umm, suicidal much?

    June 20, 2009

  • *headdesk*

    June 20, 2009

  • I'm a bit perplexed by the use of against here. At best it's redundant, at worst confusing.

    "On behalf of the Board and executive management I thank you for your continued support as we continue executing against our growth and product strategy at CardieX.


    I look forward to reporting our progress against these objectives to you over the coming year and I thank you as always for your continuing support as we execute against our vision for your Company."

    - Craig Cooper, CEO, Managing Director, & Co-Founder of CardieX Limited, letter to shareholders 26-02-2021.

    March 29, 2021

  • I think two nonstandard usages are conspiring to create confusion there. First the intransitive execute, and second against in a sense vaguely like "with reference to". Both characteristic of American corpspeak in the tens.

    I think one of the standard meanings of against, "in comparison with," (as in "checking the cargo against the manifest") has undergone a semantic shift to give rise to this newfangled meaning.

    April 1, 2021