atrophy

1 of 2

noun

at·​ro·​phy ˈa-trə-fē How to pronounce atrophy (audio)
plural atrophies
1
: decrease in size or wasting away of a body part or tissue
atrophy of muscles
also : arrested development or loss of a part or organ incidental to the normal development or life of an animal or plant
2
: a wasting away or progressive decline
It was not a solitude of atrophy, of negation, but of perpetual flowering.Willa Cather
an atrophy of imagination
atrophic adjective

atrophy

2 of 2

verb

at·​ro·​phy ˈa-trə-fē How to pronounce atrophy (audio) -ˌfī How to pronounce atrophy (audio)
atrophied; atrophying; atrophies

transitive + intransitive

: to waste away (as from disease or disuse) : to undergo atrophy
Extended periods of weightlessness resulted in body fluids pooling in the upper torso, causing changes in how the heart pumped blood. In addition, muscles began to atrophy, bones lost calcium and mass …Warren E. Leary
Because of an incomplete spine, only one nerve serviced her legs, causing them to atrophy.Ada Brownell
Communion with nature strengthens both body and soul; isolation from nature causes both to atrophy.Mark Purcell
also : to cause (something) to waste away or undergo atrophy
When reform becomes too theological, it atrophies some forces even while it galvanizes others. John C. Culver
see also atrophied

Did you know?

What Can atrophy?

From its literal Greek roots, atrophy would mean basically "lack of nourishment". Although the English word doesn't usually imply any lack of food, it always refers to a wasting away. Those who have been bedridden for a period of time will notice that their muscles have atrophied. And muscular atrophy is a frequent result of such diseases as cancer and AIDS. We also use atrophy in a much more general sense. After being out of work a few years, you may find your work skills have atrophied; someone who's been living an isolated life may discover the same thing about his or her social skills; and a democracy can atrophy when its citizens cease to pay attention to how they're being governed.

Examples of atrophy in a Sentence

Noun The doctor is concerned about possible atrophy of the shoulder muscles.
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
Zoom in: Wong is a longtime activist and writer who was diagnosed with muscular atrophy as a child. Shawna Chen, Axios, 11 July 2024 Excessively quick weight loss can cause muscle atrophy, decreases in metabolism, nutritional deficiencies, and gallstones, among other issues. Max Bennett, Discover Magazine, 24 June 2024
Verb
Over time, the federal government abandoned a policy of managing production to support prices, prompting growers to become more export-oriented while local distribution networks atrophied. Lydia Depillis, New York Times, 30 May 2024 Rodriguez said the fingers on his right hand weren’t working properly, his muscles twitched, and his right hand atrophied. Edward Lee, Baltimore Sun, 7 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for atrophy 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'atrophy.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Noun

Late Latin atrophia, from Greek, from atrophos ill fed, from a- + trephein to nourish

First Known Use

Noun

1601, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb

1863, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of atrophy was in 1601

Dictionary Entries Near atrophy

Cite this Entry

“Atrophy.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/atrophy. Accessed 19 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition

atrophy

1 of 2 noun
at·​ro·​phy
ˈa-trə-fē
plural atrophies
: decrease in size or wasting away of a body part or tissue

atrophy

2 of 2 verb
atrophied; atrophying
: to undergo atrophy

Medical Definition

atrophy

1 of 2 noun
at·​ro·​phy ˈa-trə-fē How to pronounce atrophy (audio)
plural atrophies
: decrease in size or wasting away of a body part or tissue
also : arrested development or loss of a part or organ incidental to the normal development or life of an animal or plant

atrophy

2 of 2 verb
atrophied; atrophying

intransitive verb

: to undergo atrophy
the inactive muscles atrophied

transitive verb

: to cause to undergo atrophy
disuse atrophied the arm
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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