So let’s look at the word decimate. We all know what it means–“to utterly destroy.” Right?

Well, as it turns out, yes–but. There’s always a “but,” right? LOL. Decimate actually has a much more precise meaning that I was completely unaware of.

If we look at the root of the word, we see dec in there, which is Latin for “ten.” And decimus is “one-tenth.” So decimate, which is a verb form of “one-tenth,” actually gives us a little history lesson. If a Roman legion mutinied or showed cowardice, they could be decimated as a punishment. Which is to say, one out of every ten soldiers would be executed. (!!!) Originally, then, decimate meant that an army would be reduced in strength by 10%. But over the years, the word began to be applied more loosely to any big loss.