Definition of attenuate
- … shows great skill in the use of language to moderate or attenuate the impact of awkward facts.
- —Bernard Lewis
- an attenuated virus
- Glass can be attenuated into fibers.
- attenuate oil by heating it
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Earplugs will attenuate the loud sounds of the machinery.
an investment attenuated by significant inflation over the years
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Attenuate ultimately comes from a combination of the Latin prefix ad-, meaning "to" or "toward," and tenuis, meaning "thin." It has been on the medical scene since the 16th century, when a health treatise recommended eating dried figs to attenuate bodily fluids. That treatment might be outmoded nowadays, but attenuate is still used in medicine to refer to procedures that weaken a pathogen or reduce the severity of a disease. Most often, though, attenuate implies that something has been reduced or weakened by physical or chemical means. You can attenuate wire by drawing it through successively smaller holes, or attenuate gold by hammering it into thin sheets. You can even attenuate the momentum of a play by including too many costume changes.
: to make (something) weaker or less in amount, effect, or force
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