Definitions

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

  • n. A large-scale sacrifice or slaughter.
  • n. A sacrifice to the ancient Greek and Roman gods consisting originally of 100 oxen or cattle.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. In ancient Greece or Rome, a great feast and public sacrifice to the gods, originally of a hundred oxen.
  • n. Any great sacrifice; a great number of people, animals or things, especially as sacrificed or destroyed; a large amount.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A sacrifice of a hundred oxen or cattle at the same time; hence, the sacrifice or slaughter of any large number of victims.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. In classical antiquity, a sacrifice of a hundred oxen or other beasts of one kind; hence, any great sacrifice of victims; any great slaughter of persons or animals.

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

  • n. a great sacrifice; an ancient Greek or Roman sacrifice of 100 oxen

Etymologies

Latin hecatombē, from Greek hekatombē : hekaton, hundred; see dekm̥ in Indo-European roots + -bē, oxen; see gwou- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Latin hecatombē, from Ancient Greek ἑκατόμβη, from ἑκατόν ("hundred") + βοῦς ("ox"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • 'As for amusement, I could kill rats as I used to do; or slaughter a hecatomb of pheasants at Babington,' -- here the old man winced, though the word hecatomb reconciled him a little to the disagreeable allusion.

    John Caldigate

  • Just this week the trade organization, Reporters Without Borders, issued a communiqué prognosticating another year of "hecatomb" - cattle sacrifice to the gods - for journalists working in Mexico.

    news.newamericamedia.org

  • ‘As for amusement, I could kill rats as I used to do; or slaughter a hecatomb of pheasants at Babington,’ — here the old man winced, though the word hecatomb reconciled him a little to the disagreeable allusion ‘But it has come to me now that I want so much more than amusement.

    John Caldigate

  • The downtown 'hecatomb' was millions over-budget and 8 months late; yet NYC architect wannabies had orgasms galore upon its opening.

    Sound Politics: A $165 million homeless shelter

  • The hecatomb which is sacrificed to the magician, he receives as an oblation to his science, and conscious of possessing real endowments, the idol devours the meats that are offered to him without analysing the motives and expectations under which he is fed.

    The Martyrs of Science, or, The lives of Galileo, Tycho Brahe, and Kepler

  • "hecatomb" of oxen, there will probably be a distribution of roast meat to all the worshipers, and the honest citizen will take home to his wife an uncommon luxury -- a piece of roast beef.

    A Day in Old Athens; a Picture of Athenian Life

  • 'hecatomb' (more dethronement rhetoric), the factor of laws and regulation is built into the evolution of complex economies, which only arise in their modern form under very special conditions, and which are set up by the deliberate tactics of 'free market' policy makers.

    Darwiniana

  • Snyder, in my opinion correctly, identifies "four distinct versions of the Final Solution" that preceded the actual hecatomb: "the Lublin plan for a Jewish reservation in eastern Poland," Jewish emigration into the Soviet Union with Stalin's consent (which he refused), Jewish resettlement in Madagascar (which the British navy would have blocked), and forced emigration into the Soviet Union after the German invasion.

    Caught between two killers

  • The hens, who had unaccountably bunched themselves in the far comer of the cage like the nervous virgins, lifted their beady spiteful faces and instantly came squawking and swooping towards her as if determined on a feathered hecatomb.

    She Closed Her Eyes

  • You must now offer a hecatomb to the Blog Gods for the gift of preceding this post with "Midget Wrestlers Murdered By Fake Hookers"

    John Terry’s sacking as England captain tells us something interesting...

Comments

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

  • Famously used in Ten Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

    August 15, 2008

  • "And I caught my double-header; the next day I landed a twenty-five pound kingfish on a twelve-pound line, bloody to the elbows and cut to the bone by the handline. The fish would pant and suffer in the sack because we had to keep them alive and so fresh. On such hecatombs is human superiority nourished."
    - 'Abortion III', Germaine Greer in Spare Rib, 1972.

    April 13, 2008

  • "'Though I believe it was their intention to ... do the thing handsomely, with a hecatomb among their livestock; only their sheep died, their fowls had the pip...'"
    --O'Brian, The Truelove, 85

    March 10, 2008

  • Whole hecatombs ought to be offered up to the manes of my Clarissa Lovelace.

    Lovelace to Belford, Clarissa by Samuel Richardson

    December 8, 2007