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From Latin hecatombē, from Ancient Greek ἑκατόμβη (hekatómbē), from ἑκατόν (hekatón, hundred) + βοῦς (boûs, ox).



hecatomb (plural hecatombs)

  1. (Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome) A great feast and public sacrifice to the gods, originally of a hundred oxen.
    • 2007, Homer, Rodney Merrill transl., The Iliad, University of Michigan Press (→ISBN), page 40:
      For the god they speedily stationed the sacred hecatomb all in good order surrounding the well-built altar.
  2. (by extension) Any great sacrifice; a great number of people, animals or things, especially as sacrificed or destroyed; a large amount.
    • 1875, Mark Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, page 366-7:
      The tender word and Christian encouragement of an invalid, pitiful patience with his fears and the removal of them, are better than hecatombs of gushing theories, stereotyped borrowed speeches, and the doling of arguments, which are but so many parodies on legitimate Christian Science, aflame with divine Love.
    • 2002, Christopher Hitchens, "Martin Amis: Lightness at Midnight", The Atlantic, Sep 2002:
      In Conquest's opinion, the visceral reaction to Nazism entails a verdict that it was morally worse than Stalinism, even if its eventual hecatomb was a less colossal one.
    • 2006, Karen Armstrong, The Great Transformation, Atlantic Books 2007, p. 31-2:
      During the royal hunt, the Shang killed wild beasts with reckless abandon, and consumed hecatombs of domestic animals at a bin banquet or a funeral.


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