Decimate

The Roman Forum, the political, economic, cult...

The Roman Forum, the political, economic, cultural, and religious center of the city during the Republic and later Empire, now lies in ruins in modern-day Rome. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you know the origin of “decimate”? Historically, it means to kill one in every ten people. In Roman times, when mutinies were not uncommon, as a warning to the troops one in every ten soldiers would be executed: “Follow orders, or this will happen to you!” You can see the “deci” root in the word, also found in “decimal.”

 

Over time, the word “decimate” has come to be taken not so literally, thank goodness, and is commonly accepted to mean the destruction of a large amount or number of something: “The recent floods decimated several Colorado towns.”

 

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