Word of the Day – Decimate

Word of the Day : March 28, 2022


verb DESS-uh-mayt

What It Means

Decimate means “to reduce drastically especially in number” or “to cause great destruction or harm to.”

// Budget cuts have decimated public services throughout the state.

// The landscape is decimated by pollution.

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DECIMATE in Context

“Hawaii is expected to tie a record-high 10.4 million visitor arrivals just five years after COVID-19 decimated the islands’ tourism-based economy in 2020, according to the state’s latest economic forecast.” — Dan Nakaso, The Honolulu (Hawaii) Star-Advertiser, 2 Mar. 2022

Did You Know?

The connection between decimate and the number ten harks back to a brutal practice of the army of ancient Rome. A unit that was guilty of a severe crime (such as mutiny) was punished by selecting and executing one-tenth of its soldiers, thereby scaring the remaining nine-tenths into obedience. The word comes from Latin decem, meaning “ten.” Decimate strayed from its “tenth” meaning and nowadays refers to the act of destroying or hurting something in great numbers.