de·cline | \di-ˈklīn, 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


\ also ˈdē-ˌklīn \

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 \-ˈklī-nə-bəl \ adjective
decliner \-ˈklī-nər \ 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

Mayor Kevin Faulconer also declined to comment through a spokesman. David Garrick,, "If state Supreme Court rules against San Diego on pensions, it could could cost city millions," 14 July 2018 The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner declined to comment on the Snell case. Shawn Musgrave,, "Legal battle over medical examiner’s track record," 14 July 2018 Garcetti’s office declined to comment on the Times' lawsuit. Bradford Betz, Fox News, "LA Mayor Eric Garcetti mum on travel, security expenses, prompting lawsuit," 13 July 2018 Underscoring the sensitivity of the issue, several business and political leaders involved in the effort declined to comment publicly for a story. Steve Harrison And Jim Morrill, charlotteobserver, "Why did council Democrats wait to oppose RNC? An inside look at Charlotte’s bid.," 13 July 2018 Julie Guymon, a spokeswoman for Dilliard's, declined to comment Wednesday on the possible expansion. Tom Daykin, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Dilliard's department store chain could enter Milwaukee area by buying Boston Store sites," 11 July 2018 Properties at high elevations have experienced rising values, while those at lower elevations have declined in value. Richard Florida, WIRED, "Climate Change Will Force the Poor From Their Homes," 13 July 2018 If there’s old baggage here and either Annie or Bonnie tries to hand it back to you by way of explanation for the current rift, then decline to accept it. Carolyn Hax, Detroit Free Press, "2 adult daughters move back home, but only 1 pays rent," 12 July 2018 Their connection, though already unique, may become even rarer as international adoptions from China have declined over the past decade. NBC News, "Staying connected: Why these nine adoptees from China reunite annually," 11 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Yet scientific work being spearheaded by Lewis’ team at the Field Museum is finding increasing opportunities for changes in urban land use that will support pollinator habitat, and perhaps help change the trajectory of the monarchs’ decline. Cindy Dampier,, "Why Chicago might be the best place to save the monarch butterfly," 13 July 2018 But that’s less than the double-digit annual declines that had prevailed since the second quarter of 2017 and the smallest drop since early 2017. Paul Davidson, USA TODAY, "Home prices are high. What could cool them down?," 12 July 2018 What was Scott's role in either the company's decline or the shake-up of executives at his top investment? Mary Ellen Klas, miamiherald, "Rick Scott and family made $550M in one transaction. How 'blind' is his blind trust?," 11 July 2018 But a detailed 1983 article about the decline of the drive-in, written by The Chronicle’s John Stanley, gave data and testimonials that suggested the multiplex theater was the largest culprit for failing drive-ins. Peter Hartlaub,, "SF almost had a Sutro Drive-In in 1950, and more local outdoor movie history," 13 July 2018 North Slope production in fiscal 2017 averaged 526,500 barrels per day, making for a decline of about 0.9 percent. Author: Elwood Brehmer, Anchorage Daily News, "Despite slight production dip, Alaska oil revenue grows in FY18," 13 July 2018 Cerf said that in Chicago and Evanston, which were the first two Illinois cities to adopt such ordinances three years ago, there is data showing declines of more than 35 percent in teen smoking rates. Mike Danahey, Elgin Courier-News, "Elgin moves closer to banning tobacco sales to people under 21; final vote July 25," 12 July 2018 The story includes the decline and fall of the Connecticut textile industry and the subsequent transition to a post industrial economy which is now underway in the former mill towns. Courant Community, "Community News For The Windham Edition," 10 July 2018 However, the decline of the whales can’t be pegged, experts say, to contaminants alone. New York Times, "Orcas of the Pacific Northwest Are Starving and Disappearing," 9 July 2018

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


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


see decline entry 1

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Phrases Related to decline

in decline

in terminal decline

on the decline

Statistics for decline

Last Updated

7 Oct 2018

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 \
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 \
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

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