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”), Danish, Norwegian 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 (in a competition or contest).
- 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!
- (slang) To amaze, stun or otherwise incapacitate by awesomeness; to kill (slang sense).
- 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).
- "Slain" has a current usage in newspaper headlines, as being shorter than "murdered".
- (to kill, murder): kill, murder, assassinate
- (to defeat, overcome): conquer, defeat, overcome
- (to overwhelm or delight): kill, hit it out of the park