Latin decimatus, past participle of decimare, from decimus tenth, from decem ten
- Date: 1660
- 1 : to select by lot and kill every tenth man of
- 2 : to exact a tax of 10 percent from <poor as a decimated Cavalier — John Dryden>
- 3 a : to reduce drastically especially in number <cholera decimated the population> b : to cause great destruction or harm to <firebombs decimated the city> <an industry decimated by recession>
Decimation (Latin: decimatio; decem = "ten") was a form of military discipline used by officers in the Roman Army to punish mutinous or cowardly soldiers. The word decimation is derived from Latin meaning "removal of a tenth."
A unit selected for punishment by decimation was divided into groups of ten; each group drew lots (Sortition), and the soldier on whom the lot fell was executed by his nine comrades, often by stoning or clubbing. The remaining soldiers were given rations of barley instead of wheat and forced to sleep outside of the Roman encampment.