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

An Alibaba spokesperson declined to reveal Mr. Ma’s salary, but Forbes estimates his net worth at $35.1 billion. Shan Li, WSJ, "It’s Official: China’s E-Commerce King Is a Communist," 26 Nov. 2018 Quality of housing declined, maintenance suffered, and the supply of affordable homes diminished. Diana Budds, Curbed, "3 ways architects can improve social equity," 8 Nov. 2018 The Justice Department and a spokesperson for McCabe declined to comment. Brooke Singman, Fox News, "Goodlatte subpoenas McCabe memos, materials in response to Rosenstein 'wire' report," 28 Sep. 2018 The new parents could also decline the courtesy titles, like Princess Anne did with Peter and Zara Phillips. Caroline Picard, Good Housekeeping, "Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Are Expecting Their First Child," 15 Oct. 2018 Their attorney, Charles Renner, declined to comment. Bill Turque, kansascity, "City Hall, Westport dispute who is to blame for security delays," 11 July 2018 Some analysts believe that Permian production could decline, or at least grow more slowly, in 2019 or 2020 as energy companies move from their best acreage to more marginal areas. David Koenig, Anchorage Daily News, "US soon to leapfrog Saudis, Russia as top oil producer," 12 July 2018 Chris Gober, Jacob’s attorney, had asked Senior U.S. District Judge David Ezra to sentence her to either a half-way house or home confinement, but the judge declined. Patrick Danner, San Antonio Express-News, "FourWinds bookkeeper who testified against Uresti sentenced to year in prison camp," 11 July 2018 When reached by phone Wednesday night, an employee with Force One declined to comment. Max Londberg, kansascity, "Security guards with Overland Park firm murder man in car outside KC bar, police say," 11 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

And then the decline of innovation is almost the exact same thing as closed-minded, is closed borders ... Eric Johnson, Recode, "How to make a big company more innovative," 30 Nov. 2018 The decline of labor unions is largely responsible for the growing income inequality in the United States. Alexia Fernández Campbell, Vox, "Missouri voters just blocked the right-to-work law Republicans passed to weaken labor unions," 8 Aug. 2018 Among 21- to 27-year-olds, the decline has been sharper. Chris Stirewalt, Fox News, "Trump's favorite county," 3 Aug. 2018 The decline of interoperability and open standards has long been chipping away at the freedom of the internet. Eric Limer, Popular Mechanics, "If You Want To Fix Facebook, Tear Down Its Walls," 31 July 2018 The Wall Street Journal reports that while the brand’s sales have fallen in recent months, a company spokesperson argued that the decline was due to high sales during and immediately after the 2016 election. Bridget Read, Vogue, "Ivanka Trump Is Locking Up Her Fashion Brand," 24 July 2018 Experts say the decline is not just the result of a stronger economy. Salvador Rizzo, Washington Post, "Anatomy of a Trump rally: 76 percent of claims are false, misleading or lacking evidence," 10 July 2018 Marcus acknowledged that the decline is the result of several factors, including pollution and the loss of floodplain habitat. Kurtis Alexander,, "SF would face new limits under state water proposal," 6 July 2018 Some suggest that the decline since December has largely been down to the introduction over that period of Bitcoin futures trading in the U.S. David Meyer, Fortune, "Bitcoin and Other Cryptocurrencies Are Soaring Again—For Now," 5 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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Statistics for decline

Last Updated

2 Dec 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

Comments on decline

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a nest or breeding place

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