I came across this article today - https://www.axios.com/2022/11/13/elon-musk-twitter-contractor-layoffs. The title reads "Elon Musk culls Twitter contractors after mass employee layoffs". I'm not a native English speaker and this is the first time that I've seen the word "cull".

From the reading article, I couldn't tell what would word "Cull" meant. To me, it seems that for a "technical" or "popular" article some other word could have been used.

So what I'm actually asking: is the word "cull" something that is regularly used in spoken English these days?

1 Answer 1


Culling may not be frequent, but it is a common word in America.

It just means filtering out the less fit, less useful, etc. Usually in cases where you cannot afford to maintain all that you had. A person that owns properties for rent and wants to reduce their stock will cull the properties, keep the best and sell the worst.

An alternative euphemism in America is "right-sizing", which means laying off to make the headcount optimal for the job to be done: "Elon Musk right-sizes Twitter contractors after mass employee layoffs".

The advantage of these two is they both imply only the removal of excesses, without suggesting they just cannot afford the full complement of staff.

But "culls" is shorter and accurate, and when you are writing a headline, short and punchy is a big factor.

  • 3
    To add to this ^, cull also seems to have a direct association to assets, particularly living assets, most particularly "livestock" ..which if we're being honest, is precisely what an employee is to a corporation.
    – elrobis
    Commented Nov 14, 2022 at 13:07
  • @elrobis Agreed. We are talking about human contractors. I also forgot "Reduction In Force" as a euphemism for firing people, that is fairly common.
    – Amadeus
    Commented Nov 14, 2022 at 15:22
  • 1
    In British English, the most common meaning is to reduce the size of a population of animals by killing selected ones (usually the weak or sick). Commented Nov 16, 2022 at 17:15
  • 1
    @KateBunting In American English as well, I think. But the word here is often used metaphorically and extended to non-living assets, or living employees without suggesting murder. e.g. cull properties, cull stock holdings, cull candidates, etc.
    – Amadeus
    Commented Nov 16, 2022 at 17:35

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