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 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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Amid a rise in corporate social activism, a fracture appears to be forming between companies that will speak out on a range of social issues (whether sincerely or not) and ones that will decline. Robert Hackett, Fortune, "Welcome to the corporate woke wars," 27 Apr. 2021 The Sun’s heat comes from nuclear fusion in its core, and temperatures should decline moving outward. Daniel Clery, Science | AAAS, "Solar ‘campfires’ may heat the Sun’s atmosphere to scorching temperatures," 27 Apr. 2021 The city’s property tax revenues for the coming fiscal year are projected to decline by $2.5 billion compared to an earlier forecast, the largest drop since 1996, as the values of office buildings and hotels have sunk. Paul Overberg, WSJ, "The Pandemic Changed Where Americans Live," 27 Apr. 2021 There were signs that hesitancy was starting to decline in groups targeted by the campaign, especially those in Black and Hispanic communities. David Montgomery, Washington Post, "How to Sell the Coronavirus Vaccines to a Divided, Uneasy America," 26 Apr. 2021 Hesitancy remains a huge hurdle to reaching herd immunity, as vaccination numbers are starting to decline. Ashley Semler, CNN, "Inside Biden's make-or-break first 100 days battling the Covid pandemic," 26 Apr. 2021 Under Biden and Garland, the Justice Department could settle many of the legal challenges brought against both these programs on favorable terms for the plaintiffs or decline to appeal rulings against them in the lower courts. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "The Mystery of Merrick Garland," 26 Apr. 2021 Remember, it’s okay to decline the baby shower invite. L'oreal Thompson Payton, SELF, "8 Things I’ve Learned From 4 Failed IVF Cycles," 24 Apr. 2021 Potatoes planted in the garden a few months ago are forming potatoes underground, and the plants are starting to decline. Tom Maccubbin,, "Easter lilies will regrow and flower annually," 24 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The region, which was hit heavily by Covid-19 in the early days of the pandemic, has now registered some of the highest vaccination rates in the nation thus far, however, likely contributing to the sharp decline in cases. Alison Durkee, Forbes, "NYC Bars And Jersey Dance Floors: Here Are All The Ways The Northeast Is Opening Up As Covid-19 Cases Drop," 28 Apr. 2021 Since the Korean War, almost every recession has been accompanied by a sharp decline in private-sector investment, representing an adjustment to imbalances in the economy. Douglas Carr, National Review, "Is Bidenomics Keynesianism’s Last Gasp?," 22 Apr. 2021 For example, distress from the sharp decline of the coal industry is already evident in communities across Appalachia. David Victor, The Conversation, "New US climate pledge: Cut emissions 50% this decade, but can Biden make it happen?," 22 Apr. 2021 That's a sharp decline from the peak of 200 million barrels last summer. Matt Egan, CNN, "Oil prices went negative a year ago. Now the glut is gone," 20 Apr. 2021 With Singapore's rapid development over the past 50 years came a sharp decline in the fertility rate. Washington Post, "As Singapore ages, single women pay the price of caring for elderly parents," 12 Apr. 2021 Meanwhile, states will see a sharp decline in deliveries of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week as the company struggles to meet its manufacturing timeline. Elinor Aspegren, USA TODAY, "Three states will open vaccines to all adults this week; Florida reports single-digit COVID deaths: Live COVID-19 updates," 12 Apr. 2021 But given the sharp decline in injuries and concussions, the merits of playing preseason games will also be brought to the table. cleveland, "JC Tretter and NFLPA urging players to boycott in-person OTAs and minicamps amid ongoing pandemic," 10 Apr. 2021 After a sharp decline, COVID-19 cases in the U.S. have started to climb again as more contagious variants spread. Anna Kuchment, Dallas News, "Safe or superspreader? Why the Texas Rangers are opening their doors to full capacity Monday despite the risks," 4 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.

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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

30 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Decline.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 May. 2021.

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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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Comments on decline

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