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


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 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


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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

WeWork declined to comment on the lawsuit, which was first reported by Bloomberg. Sara Ashley O'brien, CNN, "Former WeWork VP sues the company alleging age discrimination," 14 June 2019 The nursing board’s executive director, Katherine Thomas, declined to comment. Laura Garcia,, "Auditors urge better monitoring of program for nurses battling chemical dependency," 14 June 2019 Delgadillo‘s defense attorney, Chris Cronson, declined to comment after the plea was accepted. Jim Newton, Lake County News-Sun, "Woman pleads guilty in Waukegan DUI crash that killed two," 13 June 2019 The city Taxi and Limousine Commission, which regulates yellow cabs, declined to comment on the Council’s plan. Brian M. Rosenthal, New York Times, "Facing Ruin, Taxi Drivers to Get $10 Million Break and Loan Safeguards," 12 June 2019 The Gadsden Times declined to comment for this story. Ivana Hrynkiw |,, "Trenton Garmon denies wrongdoing in arrest, says he uses medical marijuana," 12 June 2019 Facebook and Pelosi’s office declined to comment Wednesday. Mae Anderson, Anchorage Daily News, "Zuckerberg is focus of latest doctored video posted to Facebook," 12 June 2019 Someone who answered the phone at Nessler Park Family Aquatic Center on Tuesday declined to comment on what happened. The Washington Post, The Mercury News, "A mother was breastfeeding her child at a public pool; then the police came," 12 June 2019 Edwards declined to comment on whether his company had experienced any similar firefighting foam accidents in the past, and referred all other requests for comment to DEEP officials. Gregory B. Hladky,, "State working to contain Farmington River pollution from firefighting foam spill," 12 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

But 15 years after the law was passed, Swedish police found no such decline. The Economist, "The idea of criminalising prostitutes’ clients is spreading," 15 June 2019 Even a mild recession could result in revenue declines of nearly $70 billion and budget deficits of $40 billion over a three-year span, the state Department of Finance has predicted. Alejandro Lazo, WSJ, "California Expands Health Care for Some Adult Undocumented Immigrants," 14 June 2019 Other posts said the recent Notre-Dame cathedral fire in Paris occurred because of a decline of Western and Christian values. Adam Satariano, New York Times, "Russia Sought to Use Social Media to Influence E.U. Vote, Report Finds," 14 June 2019 But if current sales trends continue—the first four months of the year saw a decline of about 10%—China could see three million fewer sales than last year, according to CADA’s Jia (link in Chinese). Echo Huang, Quartz, "China’s hit upon the best way to boost sales of electric cars—but it’ll hurt fossil-fuel ones," 12 June 2019 The United Way cuts, which take effect July 1, follow a decline of about $3 million in traditional, unrestricted contributions to the organization, money generally divided among nonprofit groups in the Louisville region and Southern Indiana. Deborah Yetter, The Courier-Journal, "Louisville nonprofits dealt another blow after United Way announces it will slash funds," 11 June 2019 Earlier this year, Phoenix New Times reported on the decline of the museum’s volunteer docent program under Cruz. Kerry Lengel, azcentral, "Phoenix Art Museum director Amada Cruz is leaving July 10 to lead Seattle Art Museum," 10 June 2019 The modest rise snapped a three-session streak of declines after prices closed last Tuesday at $66.30 a barrel, the highest since late October. ... Dan Molinski, WSJ, "Oil Prices Mixed as OPEC Considers Raising Output," 29 Apr. 2019 The company said this morning that its monthly user base fell to 326 million from from 335 million the prior quarter, marking the second quarter in a row of declines. Casey Newton, The Verge, "How platforms are driving users to misinformation about mail bombs," 27 Oct. 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.

See More

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

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

Statistics for decline

Last Updated

17 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for decline

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

See more words from the same century

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

Keep scrolling for more

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

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


standardized text or formulaic language

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Finance Words Quiz

  • a-piggy-bank
  • The etymology of mortgage is related most closely to which two words?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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