de·​clen·​sion | \ di-ˈklen(t)-shən How to pronounce declension (audio) \

Definition of declension

1a : noun, adjective, or pronoun inflection especially in some prescribed order of the forms
b : a class of nouns or adjectives having the same type of inflectional forms
2 : a falling off or away : deterioration
3 : descent, slope

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Other Words from declension

declensional \ di-​ˈklen(t)-​shə-​nᵊl How to pronounce declensional (audio) \ adjective

The Evolution of Declension

Declension came into English (via Middle French) in the first half of the 15th century, originating in the Latin verb declinare, meaning "to inflect" or "to turn aside." The word seems to have whiled away its time in the narrow field of grammar until Shakespeare put a new sense of the word in his play Richard III in 1593: "A beauty-waning and distressed widow / … Seduc'd the pitch and height of his degree / To base declension and loath'd bigamy." This "deterioration" sense led within a few decades to the newest sense of the word still in common use, "descent" or "slope." The 19th century saw still another new sense of the word—meaning "a courteous refusal"—but that sense has remained quite rare.

Examples of declension in a Sentence

a noticeable declension of the fitness of the baseball players over the winter a declension in her acting career from leading roles to cameos eventually

Recent Examples on the Web

Gender plays an integral role in many languages, from nouns assigned to a specific gender to adjectives changing their declensions based on the noun being described. Madhvi Ramani, Smithsonian, "Will a New Law Forever Change the German Language?," 28 Feb. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'declension.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of declension

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for declension

Middle English declenson, modification of Middle French declinaison, from Latin declination-, declinatio grammatical inflection, turning aside, from declinare to inflect, turn aside

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Time Traveler for declension

The first known use of declension was in the 15th century

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More from Merriam-Webster on declension

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with declension

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for declension

Britannica English: Translation of declension for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about declension

Comments on declension

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an act or instance of editing or removing

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