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noun at·tri·tion \ə-ˈtri-shən, a-\

Simple Definition of attrition

  • : a reduction in the number of employees or participants that occurs when people leave because they resign, retire, etc., and are not replaced

  • : the act or process of weakening and gradually defeating an enemy through constant attacks and continued pressure over a long period of time

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of attrition

  1. 1 [Middle English attricioun, from Medieval Latin attrition-, attritio, from Latin] :  sorrow for one's sins that arises from a motive other than that of the love of God

  2. 2 :  the act of rubbing together :  friction; also :  the act of wearing or grinding down by friction

  3. 3 :  the act of weakening or exhausting by constant harassment, abuse, or attack <a war of attrition>

  4. 4 :  a reduction in numbers usually as a result of resignation, retirement, or death <a company with a high rate of attrition>

attritional play \-ˈtri-sh(ə-)nəl\ adjective

Examples of attrition in a sentence

  1. His first response was a plan to streamline management, reducing the company's white-collar ranks through attrition. An old-school CEO who had been with Stanley most of his adult life, Davis considered layoffs a last resort. But by the time he stepped down as CEO in 1987, hundreds of factory workers had lost their jobs on his orders. —James Lardner, New York Review of Books, 14 June 2007

  2. Younger operatives are resigning in droves, because they have given up hope of reform. The attrition was sufficient to provoke an investigation by the inspector general in 1996. —Edward G. Shirley, Atlantic, February 1998

  3. This had led the British to look upon these sieges as an opportunity to deplete the German army by the gradual process of attrition. Because by 1917, they had so many cannon and such immense supplies of ammunition, they believed that their attacks could inflict more manpower losses than they themselves would suffer. —Archer Jones, Elements of Military Strategy, 1996

  4. Attrition is high among social workers because of the difficult work and poor pay.

  5. <took the machinery out of operation since attrition had led to the main mechanism's breaking>

Origin of attrition

Latin attrition-, attritio, from atterere to rub against, from ad- + terere to rub — more at throw

First Known Use: 14th century

Other Christian Religious Terms

Medical Dictionary


noun at·tri·tion \ə-ˈtrish-ən\

Medical Definition of attrition

  1. :  the act of rubbing together; also :  the act of wearing or grinding down by friction <attrition of teeth>

attritional \-ˈtrish-nəl, -ˈtrish-ən-əl\play adjective

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