attenuate

1 of 2

verb

at·​ten·​u·​ate ə-ˈten-yə-ˌwāt How to pronounce attenuate (audio) -yü-ˌāt How to pronounce attenuate (audio)
attenuated; attenuating

transitive verb

1
: to lessen the amount, force, magnitude, or value of : weaken
… shows great skill in the use of language to moderate or attenuate the impact of awkward facts.Bernard Lewis
2
: to reduce the severity, virulence, or vitality of
an attenuated virus
3
: to make thin or slender
Glass can be attenuated into fibers.
4
: to make thin in consistency : rarefy
attenuate oil by heating it

intransitive verb

: to become thin, fine, or less

attenuate

2 of 2

adjective

at·​ten·​u·​ate ə-ˈten-yə-wət How to pronounce attenuate (audio)
-yü-ət
1
: reduced especially in thickness, density, or force
the attenuate limbs of a starving person
2
: tapering gradually usually to a long slender point
attenuate leaves

Did you know?

Attenuate ultimately comes from a combining of the Latin prefix ad-, meaning "to" or "toward," and tenuis, meaning "thin," a pedigree that is in keeping with the English word's current meanings, which all have to do with literal or metaphorical thinning. The word is most common in technical contexts, where it often implies the reduction or weakening of something by physical or chemical means. You can attenuate wire by drawing it through successively smaller holes, for example, or attenuate gold by hammering it into thin sheets. Current evidence dates the term to the 16th century, in which we find many references to bodily humors in need of being attenuated; modern medicine prefers to use the word in reference to procedures that weaken a pathogen or reduce the severity of a disease.

Examples of attenuate in a Sentence

Verb Earplugs will attenuate the loud sounds of the machinery. an investment attenuated by significant inflation over the years
Recent Examples on the Web
Verb
Political memory in America is shockingly attenuated. Susan B. Glasser, The New Yorker, 22 Feb. 2024 The effect of dieting on muscle and bone can be attenuated, but not prevented, through resistance training. Daniel Engber, The Atlantic, 7 Feb. 2024 When the interleukin-1 beta was blocked with an antibody, the effect of air-pollution exposure was attenuated. Siddhartha Mukherjee, The New Yorker, 11 Dec. 2023 There is nothing wrong with a message of hope that the concussion issue can be attenuated. James M. Smoliga, Dvm, Ars Technica, 10 Nov. 2023 The sound of the Tour Pro 2s is fairly neutral, with no frequencies overly boosted or attenuated. Geoffrey Morrison, wsj.com, 31 Oct. 2023 The expansive dash-to-axle distance continues the theme, attenuating with a lengthy door and a rather compact rear section. Basem Wasef, Robb Report, 27 Sep. 2023 Among the naysayers, almost half point to the invasion of Ukraine and the attenuating death tolls. Philip Elliott, Time, 28 July 2023 All of which would be more than enough to occupy your attention even if the movie slowed its tempo, attenuated its gags or paused to give each actor more than a drolly robotic witticism or two. Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times, 15 June 2023
Adjective
Mangroves along a coastline can reduce wave energy, attenuate storm surges, lower rates of erosion and maintain shoreline elevation by trapping sediment and promoting deposition. Jeff Opperman, Forbes, 19 Dec. 2022 As their two economies move apart, so will other relations attenuate. Michael Schuman, The Atlantic, 25 Oct. 2022

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'attenuate.' 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

Adjective and Verb

Middle English attenuat, from Latin attenuatus, past participle of attenuare to make thin, from ad- + tenuis thin — more at thin

First Known Use

Verb

1530, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 3

Adjective

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of attenuate was in the 15th century

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Dictionary Entries Near attenuate

Cite this Entry

“Attenuate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/attenuate. Accessed 22 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

attenuate

verb
at·​ten·​u·​ate
ə-ˈten-yə-ˌwāt
attenuated; attenuating
1
: to make thin or slender
2
: to make less in amount, force, or value : weaken
3
: to become thin, fine, or less
attenuation
ə-ˌten-yə-ˈwā-shən
noun

Medical Definition

attenuate

transitive verb
at·​ten·​u·​ate ə-ˈten-yə-ˌwāt How to pronounce attenuate (audio)
attenuated; attenuating
: to reduce the severity of (a disease) or virulence or vitality of (a pathogenic agent)
a procedure to attenuate severe diabetes
attenuated bacilli

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