Sunday, February 6th, 2011

Decimated or Devastated

From what I have seen there are a very large number of people who get these two words mixed up. The two words mean totally different things but there are many examples where the first is used but where the writer seems to be implying the meaning of the second.

Devastated means destroyed or ruined. Decimated means exactly one in ten have been killed or destroyed.

When something has been decimated exactly 9/10ths of it is still there. When something has been devastated less than 1/10th of it is still there (if there is anything left of it at all).

Decimation was a punishment that the Romans occasionally applied to legions that needed to be punished. It meant that one out of every ten common soldiers was deliberately killed as a warning to the rest.

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