From Middle English sleen, slayn, from Old English slēan (“to strike, beat, smite, stamp, forge, sting, slay, kill, impact”), from Proto-Germanic *slahaną (“to fight, strike, kill”), from Proto-Indo-European *slak- (“to hit, strike, throw”). Cognate with Dutch slaan (“to beat, hit, strike”), Low German slaan (“hit, strike”), German schlagen (“to beat, hit, strike (ein Schlag: a hit, a strike) ”), Danish and Swedish slå (“to knock, beat, strike”), Icelandic slá (“to strike”). Related to slaughter, onslaught.
- (now literary) To kill, murder.
- The knight slew the dragon.
- Our foes must all be slain.
- (literary) To eradicate or stamp out.
- You must slay these thoughts.
- (by extension, colloquial) To defeat, overcome.
- 1956, “Giants Slay Bears in Pro Title Battle”, in Lodi News-Sentinel, 1956 December 31, page 8.
- 1985, “Redskins slay Giants; Thiesmann shatters leg”, in The Gadsden Times, 1985 November 19, page D1-5.
- 1993, Jack Curry, “Yanks’ Bullpen Falls Short Again”, in The New York Times, 1993 April 21:
- The Yankees were actually slayed by two former Yankees because Rich Gossage pitched one scoreless inning in relief of Eckersley to notch his first victory.
- (slang) To delight or overwhelm, especially with laughter.
- Ha ha! You slay me!
- The alternative past tense and past participle form "slayed" is most strongly associated with the slang sense, "to delight or overwhelm":
1929, Harry Charles Witwer, Yes Man's Land, page 254:
- "Cutey, you slayed me !" grins Jackie, working fast. "I guess that's what made the rest of 'em look so bad — you was so good!"
- In recent use, "slayed" is also often found associated with the other senses as well. However, this is widely considered nonstandard.
- A review of US usage 2000-2009 in COCA suggests that "slayed" is increasing in popularity, but remains less common than "slew". It is very rare in UK usage (BNC).
- (to kill, murder): kill, murder, assassinate
- (to defeat, overcome): conquer, defeat, overcome
- (to overwhelm or delight): kill, hit it out of the park
- ^ "But slayed cannot be considered established in such use. Whether it eventually becomes established remains to be seen." — 1994, Merriam-Webster Publishing Co., “slay”, in Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage, ISBN 0877791325, page 853: