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

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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

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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Wheeler declined CBS News' request for an interview. CBS News, "Toxic coal ash is making its way to Florida from Puerto Rico. Experts warn of its adverse health effects," 7 Feb. 2020 Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Liane Davey, organizational psychology expert and author of You First and The Good Fight, suggests several polite but honest ways to decline a meeting. Sarah Todd, Quartz at Work, "Jeff Bezos poses a great question: How do you say no to annoying meeting requests?," 7 Feb. 2020 Republicans counter that the legislation is little more than a gift to the Democrats’ union allies to boost their declining numbers. Sean Higgins, Washington Examiner, "House Democrats pass massive union wish list legislation," 6 Feb. 2020 And for districts, added students mean more funds and avoiding declining enrollments. Mj Slaby, Indianapolis Star, "Why Hamilton County students transfer from larger schools to Hamilton Heights," 6 Feb. 2020 Schwab Tire declined a request to make executives or family members available to discuss their plans. oregonlive, "Les Schwab’s sale shakes up an Oregon institution," 6 Feb. 2020 The office market is bracing for another tough year as the energy industry continues to shrink amid the declining price of oil, which fell this week to its lowest level in more than a year. Nancy Sarnoff, Houston Chronicle, "Houston office market hit by energy woes," 4 Feb. 2020 Officials for Insomniac declined Billboard's request for comment. Dave Brooks, Billboard, "Insomniac Files Lawsuit Against Former Paradiso Festival Partner to Prevent 2020 Event," 3 Feb. 2020 Aging and declining populations are resulting in fewer workers and more senior citizens who impose financial burdens on their governments. Shay Khatiri, TheWeek, "America is doing so much better than you think," 2 Feb. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Early Monday, mainland China has reported another rise in cases of the new virus after a sharp decline the previous day, while the number of deaths grow by 97 to 908, with at least two more outside the country. CBS News, "Coronavirus updates: Death toll increases as world marks Chinese Lunar New Year," 9 Feb. 2020 Bucking the trend Two of Alabama’s 67 counties have bucked the decline. al, "Alabama K-12 enrollment up: cities have more, counties have fewer," 9 Feb. 2020 For China, seven countries experienced increases and eight saw declines. Feliz Solomon, WSJ, "U.S.-China Trade War Reshaped Global Commerce," 9 Feb. 2020 Like, there are millions of people in coal mining towns across India, who run local tea stalls shops, restaurants, and grocery stores and thus if the coal industry declines, the survival of all these jobs will be difficult. Mayank Aggarwal, Quartz India, "India needs nearly 30 times more solar power to phase out coal jobs," 6 Feb. 2020 Feral hogs also will eat anything, including the food sources used by native animals — robbing those creatures of their natural food sources and possibly leading to population declines. Jeff Forward, Houston Chronicle, "Feral Hogs 101: Seminar in Woodlands teaches about invasive swine," 6 Feb. 2020 And that’s not simply a case of long-term gradual decline. Isaac Chotiner, The New Yorker, "Michael Lind on Populism, Racism, and Restoring Democracy," 6 Feb. 2020 Precision Castparts, Mentor Graphics and Vigor Industrial, among others, have seen little if any visible decline under new owners. oregonlive, "Les Schwab’s sale shakes up an Oregon institution," 6 Feb. 2020 That decline also reflects the world coming to grips with the climate crisis. Matt Egan, CNN, "Exxon's market value has crumbled by $184 billion," 5 Feb. 2020

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 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

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Time Traveler for decline

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for decline

Last Updated

11 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Decline.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for decline


How to pronounce decline (audio)

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


How to pronounce decline (audio) How to pronounce decline (audio)

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

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