de·​cline | \ di-ˈklīn How to pronounce decline (audio) , dē-\
declined; declining

Definition of decline

 (Entry 1 of 2)

intransitive verb

1 archaic : to turn from a straight course : stray
2a : to slope downward : descend
b : to bend down : droop … eyes … declining toward the ground …— Henry Fielding
c : to stoop (see stoop entry 1 sense 3b) to what is unworthy … the direful shameful state Adam declined into …— Edward Taylor
3a of a celestial body : to sink toward setting the declining sun
b : to draw toward a close : wane the day declined
4 : to tend toward an inferior state or weaker condition his health declined Employee morale declined after the layoffs.
5 : to withhold consent We invited him but he declined.
6 : to become less in amount The price of the stock declined.

transitive verb

1 grammar : to give in prescribed order the grammatical forms of (a noun, pronoun, or adjective) decline the Latin adjective "brevis"

2 obsolete

a : avert … evasions are sought to decline the pressure of resistless arguments …— Samuel Johnson
b : avoid … sinners … despairing to decline their fate …— Thomas Ken
3 : to cause to bend or bow downward … the clover … declines its blooms.— W. C. Bryant
4a : to refuse to undertake, undergo, engage in, or comply with decline battle
b : to refuse especially courteously decline an invitation declined to give her name to the reporter


de·​cline | \ di-ˈklīn How to pronounce decline (audio) , dē- also ˈdē-ˌklīn How to pronounce decline (audio) \

Definition of decline (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : the process of declining: a period of economic decline a decline in the local bird population
a : a gradual physical or mental sinking and wasting away experiencing a mental decline
b : a change to a lower state or level the decline of the aristocracy
2 : the period during which something is deteriorating or approaching its end an empire in decline
3 : a downward slope built on a slight decline
4 : a wasting disease especially : pulmonary tuberculosis

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Other Words from decline


declinable \ di-​ˈklī-​nə-​bəl How to pronounce declinable (audio) \ adjective
decliner \ di-​ˈklī-​nər How to pronounce decliner (audio) \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for decline


decline, refuse, reject, repudiate, spurn mean to turn away by not accepting, receiving, or considering. decline often implies courteous refusal especially of offers or invitations. declined his party's nomination refuse suggests more positiveness or ungraciousness and often implies the denial of something asked for. refused to lend them the money reject implies a peremptory refusal by sending away or discarding. rejected the manuscript as unpublishable repudiate implies a casting off or disowning as untrue, unauthorized, or unworthy of acceptance. teenagers who repudiate the values of their parents spurn stresses contempt or disdain in rejection or repudiation. spurned his overtures of friendship


deterioration, degeneration, decadence, decline mean the falling from a higher to a lower level in quality, character, or vitality. deterioration implies generally the impairment of value or usefulness. the deterioration of the house through neglect degeneration stresses physical, intellectual, or especially moral retrogression. the degeneration of their youthful idealism into cynicism decadence presupposes a reaching and passing the peak of development and implies a turn downward with a consequent loss in vitality or energy. cited love of luxury as a sign of cultural decadence decline differs from decadence in suggesting a more markedly downward direction and greater momentum as well as more obvious evidence of deterioration. the meteoric decline of his career after the scandal

Examples of decline in a Sentence


The construction of new houses declined five percent this year. The animal's numbers are declining rapidly. My grandmother's health has been declining since she broke her hip. The civilization began to decline around 1000 B.C. The company declined comment on the scandal. He changed his mind and declined the company's offer. I invited him, but he declined.


a period of economic decline He says that American industry is in a state of decline. The town fell into decline after the factory closed down. The economy experienced a decline of two million jobs. We saw a sharp decline in sales this month. Declines led advances at the end of the trading day. There was some decline in stock prices at the end of the trading session.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The attorney declined comment while leaving the courthouse Friday, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported. Washington Post, "Lawsuit dropped in case stemming from harassment settlement," 10 Aug. 2019 His favorable rating declined from 67 percent in April to 58 percent in the new poll., "Trump says he’s considering commutation for Blagojevich," 9 Aug. 2019 The County Counsel’s Office, which functions as the attorney for the Sheriff’s Office, declined comment on the current investigation and referred an inquiry to the DA’s office. Thy Vo, The Mercury News, "Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office hit with corruption probe over concealed weapons permits," 9 Aug. 2019 LaPierre, who rarely speaks to mainstream media outlets, declined requests to be interviewed. CBS News, "Scandal-ridden NRA head Wayne LaPierre digs in against gun control," 9 Aug. 2019 Keller declined a request for comment from The Post, citing an ongoing investigation into the case. The Washington Post, al, "Lawyer for man who attacked teen over national anthem blames Trump," 8 Aug. 2019 Brandon White declined comment on the case, citing an ongoing investigation., "Twins accused of bringing drugs into Portland jail," 8 Aug. 2019 The group declined further comment for this article. Russ Wiles, azcentral, "Secular leader in Phoenix area plans to challenge IRS on tax break for clergy, ministers," 7 Aug. 2019 Schwartz declined comment for an October 2016 article in the Free Press, which was the first to disclose that Rizzo Environmental Services was the target of the probe as prosecutors initially withheld the company name from documents. Christina Hall, Detroit Free Press, "Attorney who represented Rizzo trash hauler indicted in Macomb County corruption probe," 6 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Remember that a symptom of cognitive decline due to Lewy body dementia often causes your math skills to greatly decline. Mike Oliver |, al, "My Vinyl Countdown preparing or the last post -- I need another 30 months," 10 Aug. 2019 In August, the oxygen levels decline when Lake Erie is calm, and baitfish move up on the oxygen-rich shallow structure to feed, despite the warmer waters. D'arcy Egan,, "Lake Erie walleye on the move, but trophy fish still being caught: Aug. 9 Fishing Report," 9 Aug. 2019 Real estate agents and housing analysts say there has been a pick up in buyer traffic with recent declines in home financing costs. Steve Brown, Dallas News, "Home sales set D-FW record in July up 7% from 2018," 8 Aug. 2019 As the planet becomes hotter and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere become more concentrated, the protein values in green crops, as well as the amount of micronutrients like zinc and iron, decline. Patrick Sisson, Curbed, "To combat climate change, cities need to tackle sprawl," 8 Aug. 2019 Climate change has increased risks from water scarcity, soil erosion, vegetation loss, wildfire damage, permafrost thawing, coastal dissolution, and tropical crop decline. Carolyn Kormann, The New Yorker, "Deforestation, Agriculture, and Diet Are Fuelling the Climate Crisis," 8 Aug. 2019 This violence, on top of the environmental factors that have already reduced the Hawaiian monk seal’s habitat, only serves to further hasten the species’ decline. Justin Rohrlich, Quartz, "The US is seeking someone to broker peace between humans and seals," 7 Aug. 2019 And it should be noted that all live TV is down in an on-demand content universe; even this year’s Super Bowl suffered declines. Marisa Guthrie, The Hollywood Reporter, "ABC Sees Increased Ad Demand for 2020 Oscar Telecast," 7 Aug. 2019 The trade war has curtailed grain exports from the Port of Galveston and caused an 11 percent decline in overall tonnage during the second quarter, according to data released by the port. Andrea Leinfelder, Houston Chronicle, "Port of Galveston reports increase in wind turbine cargo and cruises, decrease in grains," 6 Aug. 2019

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

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First Known Use of decline


14th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for decline

Verb and Noun

Middle English, from Anglo-French decliner, from Latin declinare to turn aside, inflect, from de- + clinare to incline — more at lean

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Statistics for decline

Last Updated

12 Aug 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for decline

The first known use of decline was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for decline



English Language Learners Definition of decline

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to become lower in amount or less in number
: to become worse in condition or quality
: to say that you will not or cannot do something



English Language Learners Definition of decline (Entry 2 of 2)

: the process of becoming worse in condition or quality
: a change to a lower number or amount


de·​cline | \ di-ˈklīn How to pronounce decline (audio) \
declined; declining

Kids Definition of decline

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to bend or slope downward The road declines into the valley.
2 : to pass toward a lower, worse, or weaker level Her health declined.
3 : to refuse to accept, do, or agree decline an invitation decline to leave



Kids Definition of decline (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a process of becoming worse or weaker in condition At 80, Grampa is showing no signs of decline.
2 : a change to a lower state or level a business decline
3 : the time when something is nearing its end the empire's decline
de·​cline | \ di-ˈklīn How to pronounce decline (audio) \
declined; declining

Medical Definition of decline

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to tend toward an impaired state or a weaker condition



Medical Definition of decline (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : the process of declining especially : a gradual physical or mental sinking and wasting away
2 : the period during which the end of life is approaching
3 : a wasting disease especially : pulmonary tuberculosis

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More from Merriam-Webster on decline

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for decline

Spanish Central: Translation of decline

Nglish: Translation of decline for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of decline for Arabic Speakers

Comments on decline

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of or relating to the heavens

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