Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Medical
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary


verb de·cline \di-ˈklīn, dē-\

Simple Definition of decline

  • : to become lower in amount or less in number

  • : to become worse in condition or quality

  • : to say that you will not or cannot do something

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of decline


  1. intransitive verb
  2. 1 archaic :  to turn from a straight course :  stray

  3. 2 a :  to slope downward :  descend b :  to bend down :  droop c :  to stoop to what is unworthy

  4. 3 a of a celestial body :  to sink toward setting b :  to draw toward a close :  wane <the day declined>

  5. 4 :  to tend toward an inferior state or weaker condition <his health declined> <morale declined>

  6. 5 :  to withhold consent

  7. 6 :  to become less in amount <prices declined>

  8. transitive verb
  9. 1 :  to give in prescribed order the grammatical forms of (a noun, pronoun, or adjective)

  10. 2 obsolete a :  avert b :  avoid

  11. 3 :  to cause to bend or bow downward

  12. 4 a :  to refuse to undertake, undergo, engage in, or comply with <decline battle> b :  to refuse especially courteously <decline an invitation>

declinable play \-ˈklī-nə-bəl\ adjective
decliner play \-ˈklī-nər\ noun

Examples of decline in a sentence

  1. The construction of new houses declined five percent this year.

  2. The animal's numbers are declining rapidly.

  3. My grandmother's health has been declining since she broke her hip.

  4. The civilization began to decline around 1000 B.C.

  5. The company declined comment on the scandal.

  6. He changed his mind and declined the company's offer.

  7. I invited him, but he declined.

Origin of decline

Middle English, from Anglo-French decliner, from Latin declinare to turn aside, inflect, from de- + clinare to incline — more at lean

First Known Use: 14th century

Synonym Discussion of decline

decline, refuse, reject, repudiate, spurn mean to turn away by not accepting, receiving, or considering. decline often implies courteous refusal especially of offers or invitations <declined his party's nomination>. refuse suggests more positiveness or ungraciousness and often implies the denial of something asked for <refused to lend them the money>. reject implies a peremptory refusal by sending away or discarding <rejected the manuscript as unpublishable>. repudiate implies a casting off or disowning as untrue, unauthorized, or unworthy of acceptance <teenagers who repudiate the values of their parents>. spurn stresses contempt or disdain in rejection or repudiation <spurned his overtures of friendship>.



noun de·cline \also ˈdē-ˌklīn\

Simple Definition of decline

  • : the process of becoming worse in condition or quality

  • : a change to a lower number or amount

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of decline

  1. 1 :  the process of declining: a :  a gradual physical or mental sinking and wasting away b :  a change to a lower state or level <the decline of the aristocracy>

  2. 2 :  the period during which something is deteriorating or approaching its end <an empire in decline>

  3. 3 :  a downward slope

  4. 4 :  a wasting disease; especially :  pulmonary tuberculosis

Examples of decline in a sentence

  1. a period of economic decline

  2. He says that American industry is in a state of decline.

  3. The town fell into decline after the factory closed down.

  4. The economy experienced a decline of two million jobs.

  5. We saw a sharp decline in sales this month.

  6. Declines led advances at the end of the trading day.

  7. There was some decline in stock prices at the end of the trading session.

14th Century

First Known Use of decline

14th century

Synonym Discussion of decline

deterioration, degeneration, decadence, decline mean the falling from a higher to a lower level in quality, character, or vitality. deterioration implies generally the impairment of value or usefulness <the deterioration of the house through neglect>. degeneration stresses physical, intellectual, or especially moral retrogression <the degeneration of their youthful idealism into cynicism>. decadence presupposes a reaching and passing the peak of development and implies a turn downward with a consequent loss in vitality or energy <cited love of luxury as a sign of cultural decadence>. decline differs from decadence in suggesting a more markedly downward direction and greater momentum as well as more obvious evidence of deterioration <the meteoric decline of his career after the scandal>.

DECLINE Defined for Kids



verb de·cline \di-ˈklīn\

Definition of decline for Students


  1. 1 :  to bend or slope downward <The road declines into the valley.>

  2. 2 :  to pass toward a lower, worse, or weaker level <Her health declined.>

  3. 3 :  to refuse to accept, do, or agree <decline an invitation> <decline to leave>



noun de·cline

Definition of decline for Students

  1. 1 :  a process of becoming worse or weaker in condition <At 80, Grampa is showing no signs of decline.>

  2. 2 :  a change to a lower state or level <a business decline>

  3. 3 :  the time when something is nearing its end <the empire's decline>

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up decline? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


marked by propriety and good taste

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!


Which of these is a synonym of unctuous?

angry oily maudlin prompt
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.