When did the word "decimate" officially become not a specific measurement? .
almost 2 years ago
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Dictionary.com has one source saying the usage changed in the 19th century and another saying the less specific meaning originated in the 17th century.
It bothers me so much when people use it to mean "destroyed most of" something; it's supposed to mean that 10% of something was destroyed, but that's not what the dictionary says anymore.
^^^ drives me batty also.
To me, it's kind of like the transition of the word "literally". It makes me sad and angry at the same time.
I'd guesstimate it happened an approximate time ago.
Google says: decimate/ˈdɛsɪmeɪt/ verb kill, destroy, or remove a large proportion of. kill one in every ten of (a group of people, originally a mutinous Roman legion) as a punishment for the whole group.
decimate (v.) c. 1600, in reference to the practice of punishing mutinous military units by capital execution of one in every 10, by lot; from Latin decimatus, past participle of decimare (see decimation). Killing one in ten, chosen by lots, from a rebellious city or a mutinous army was a common punishment in classical times. The word has been used (incorrectly, to the irritation of pedants) since 1660s for "destroy a large portion of." Related: Decimated; decimating.
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