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

Definition of decline

 (Entry 1 of 2)

intransitive verb

1 : to become less in amount The price of the stock declined.
2 : to tend toward an inferior state or weaker condition his health declined Employee morale declined after the layoffs.
3 : to withhold consent We invited him but he declined.
4a of a celestial body : to sink toward setting the declining sun
b : to draw toward a close : wane the day declined
5a : 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
6 archaic : to turn from a straight course : stray

transitive verb

1a : to refuse especially courteously decline an invitation declined to give her name to the reporter
b : to refuse to undertake, undergo, engage in, or comply with decline battle
2 grammar : to give in prescribed order the grammatical forms of (a noun, pronoun, or adjective) decline the Latin adjective "brevis"
3 : to cause to bend or bow downward … the clover … declines its blooms.— W. C. Bryant
4 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


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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from decline


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

Verb 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. Noun 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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb As a result, Avis Budget Group’s revenues could decline by about 30% in FY’20, on account of weaker demand, more focus on essentials and thereby a reduction in discretionary spending, and less travel. Trefis Team, Forbes, "Time To Sell Avis Budget Group Stock?," 7 May 2021 Hospitalizations and deaths should decline sharply by July if the nationwide vaccination program remains strong and community mitigation efforts are followed, according to a federal report released Wednesday. Elinor Aspegren, USA TODAY, "Pfizer vaccine highly effective against 2 variants, studies say; US backs waiving intellectual property rules on vaccines: COVID-19 updates," 6 May 2021 Some may decline to get vaccinated for political reasons. Thuc Nhi Nguyen Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times, "Coronavirus Today: A different toll rises," 5 May 2021 Those exit fees will decline over the coming years as the contracts purchased by the utilities expire. Rob Nikolewski, San Diego Union-Tribune, "North County’s new kid on the energy block: Three-city community choice program launches Saturday," 1 May 2021 At the immigration levels America experienced during the first half of the past decade -- a little over 1 million new entrants per year -- that would decline by 2060 to 44%. Ronald Brownstein, CNN, "The racist 'replacement theory' has it all backward," 23 Apr. 2021 Within hours, Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool all signaled they, too, would decline to take part. New York Times, "Super League Collapses as Premier League Teams Walk Away," 20 Apr. 2021 That number will likely decline as the car gets closer to production, but even so, the announcement reveals that electric cars are becoming synonymous with the idea of luxury cars, the most profitable segment of the vehicle market. Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic, "The Weekly Planet: An Outdated Idea Is Still Shaping Climate Policy," 20 Apr. 2021 Corporate-tax rates did decline sharply beginning in the 1980s, but, as the Tax Foundation points out, reductions in average corporate rates have plateaued for more than a decade. The Editors, National Review, "Janet Yellen’s Global Tax Cartel," 8 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Chesapeake in Virginia, located in proximity to prominent naval installations, experienced the second largest decline in rent over the last year with a 29.4% fall. Niall Mccarthy, Forbes, "Where Apartment Rents Are Falling Fastest In The U.S. [Infographic]," 10 May 2021 Nationwide, Catholic school enrollment fell 6.4% at the start of this school year, the largest single-year decline since the NCEA began tracking such data in the 1970s. Ian Lovett, WSJ, "Catholic Schools Are Losing Students at Record Rates, and Hundreds Are Closing," 10 May 2021 That was about two weeks after the state’s number of new cases plateaued in mid-March, following a sharp decline since early January. Erin Alberty, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Thousands of Utah’s coronavirus vaccine doses are waiting to be claimed," 29 Apr. 2021 Overall employment in 2020 is down 7.6% from 2019 levels — the largest decline among all Minnesota metropolitan areas. Jana Hollingsworth, Star Tribune, "As Duluth's economy reopens, where are the workers?," 28 Apr. 2021 Massive job losses and a shift to working from home caused a 30% plunge in auto sales, the biggest quarterly decline since the Great Recession. Julia Horowitz, CNN, "The SPAC boom has 'screeched to a halt.' That may be good thing," 26 Apr. 2021 Global energy demand contracted by 4 percent in 2020, the largest decline since World War II. Washington Post, "Carbon emissions on track to surge as world rebounds from pandemic," 19 Apr. 2021 The San Antonio area’s unemployment rate dipped in March, continuing an overall decline since April 2020’s record joblessness levels. Brandon Lingle, San Antonio Express-News, "S.A. area unemployment dipped slightly in March," 16 Apr. 2021 UHart’s undergraduate enrollment data shows a slight decline in enrollment for each fall semester since 2016. Dom Amore,, "As UHart struggles with financial concerns, downgrading athletics is an option under scrutiny," 9 Apr. 2021

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.

See More

First Known Use of decline


14th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 6


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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about decline

Time Traveler for decline

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for decline

Last Updated

12 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Decline.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 May. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

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

Comments on decline

What made you want to look up decline? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

Words Used by Nabokov Quiz

  • image1676440788
  • Choose the best definition or synonym for the word in bold: "There are some eructations that sound like cheers—at least, mine did." Lolita
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Anagram puzzles meet word search.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!