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See also: Slay


Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English sleen, slayn, from Old English slēan (to strike, beat, smite, stamp, forge, sting, slay, kill, impact), from Proto-West Germanic *slahan, 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.



slay (third-person singular simple present slays, present participle slaying, simple past slew or slayed, past participle slain or slayed or (obsolete) yslain)

  1. (now literary) To kill; to murder.
    The knight slew the dragon.
    Our foes must all be slain.
    • 1577, Raphaell Holinshed, “The Historie of Englande”, in The Firste Volume of the Chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande [], volume I, London: [] [Henry Bynneman] for Iohn Harrison, →OCLC, page 26, columns 1–2:
      In the meane time it chaunced, that Marcus Papyrius ſtroke one of the Galles on the heade with his ſtaffe, because he preſumed to ſtroke his bearde: with whiche iniurie the Gaulle beeing prouoked, ſlue Papyrius (as he ſate) with hys ſworde, and therewith the ſlaughter being begun with one, all the reſidue of thoſe auncient fatherly men as they ſat in theyr Chayres were ſlaine and cruelly murthered.
    • c. 1596–1598 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Merchant of Venice”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act II, scene i]:
      The Prince of Morocco:
      [] By this scimitar,
      That slew the Sophy and a Persian prince
      That won three fields of Sultan Solyman,
      I would outstare the sternest eyes that look,
      Outbrave the heart most daring on earth,
      Pluck the young sucking cubs from the she-bear,
      Yea, mock the lion when he roars for prey,
      To win thee, lady. []
    • 1930, Marmaduke Pickthall, transl., The Meaning of the Glorious Koran, surah 17, verse 31:
      Slay not your children, fearing a fall to poverty, We shall provide for them and for you. Lo! the slaying of them is great sin.
    • 2015 May 4, Randall Munroe, xkcd (webcomic), Degree-Off:
      "This is a graph of the death rate from infectious disease in this country. The heroes of my field have slain one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. While the heroes of your field gathered in the desert to create a new one."
  2. (literary) To eradicate or stamp out.
    You must slay these thoughts.
  3. (by extension, hyperbolic, colloquial) To defeat; to overcome (in a competition or contest).
  4. (slang) To delight or overwhelm, especially with laughter.
    Ha ha! You slay me!
    • 1971, Richard Carpenter, Catweazle and the Magic Zodiac, Harmondsworth: Puffin Books, page 29:
      He snapped his fingers contemptuously at the alarm clock. "I fear thee not, thou ticking tyrant." "You slay me," grinned Cedric.
  5. (slang, especially African-American Vernacular, transitive, intransitive) To amaze, stun, or otherwise incapacitate by excellence; to excel at something.
    Synonym: kill
    Your outfit slays!
    • 2023 September 19, Chaise Sanders, “50 Best Halloween Costumes of All Time, From the Classics to the Truly Unique”, in Cosmopolitan[2]:
      Movie buffs will love this costume from Beetlejuice. And even if you don't have someone to double team this look with, each costume can easily slay on its own.
  6. (slang) To have sex with.
Usage notes[edit]
  • The alternative past tense and past participle form "slayed" is most strongly associated with the various slang senses:
    Harry Charles Witwer (1929) Yes Man's Land[3], 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.[1]
  • 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".
  • "Slay" being used as a term to describe someone who acts, dresses or is fashionable and flawless, has its roots in LGBTQ+ Ball Culture [2] [3] [4]
Derived terms[edit]
Related terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

See sley


slay (plural slays)

  1. Alternative form of sley[5]


  1. ^ Merriam-Webster Publishing Co. (1994), “slay”, in Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage[1], →ISBN, page 853: “But slayed cannot be considered established in such use. Whether it eventually becomes established remains to be seen.”
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ slay”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, launched 2000.


Middle English[edit]

Alternative forms[edit]


From metaphorical usage of Old English slege, from Proto-West Germanic *slagi, from Proto-Germanic *slagiz.



slay (plural slayes)

  1. A sley or reed (part of a loom).


  • English: sley