declension

noun

de·​clen·​sion di-ˈklen(t)-shən How to pronounce declension (audio)
1
a
: 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
declensional adjective

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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 That’s the whole exhibition, and anyone who was expecting this to be a Netflix declension of the Degenerate Art Show, with poor patriarchal Picasso as ritualized scapegoat, can rest easy. Jason Farago, New York Times, 1 June 2023 Haidt follows the same tired declension narrative that his rhetorical forebearers did. Vicki Phillips, Forbes, 24 Jan. 2023 The same time span felt faster, like an explosion rather than like a declension. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, 7 June 2021 One time, when Joyce was memorizing Latin declension, Bill Bradley of the Knicks took notice. Katherine Fitzgerald, The Arizona Republic, 18 July 2021 The experience of the pandemic was made ghastlier by being placed against the declension of Trumpism from evil to absurdity—who will ever forget Four Seasons Total Landscaping?—and then back into even darker evil again. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, 31 Dec. 2020 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, 28 Feb. 2018 See More

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

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

First Known Use

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

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

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Dictionary Entries Near declension

Cite this Entry

“Declension.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/declension. Accessed 28 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

declension

noun
de·​clen·​sion di-ˈklen-chən How to pronounce declension (audio)
1
a
: the giving of noun, adjective, or pronoun inflections especially in a specified order
b
: a class of nouns or adjectives having the same type of inflectional forms
2
3
declensional
-ˈklench-nəl How to pronounce declension (audio)
-klen-chən-ᵊl
adjective

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