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transitive verb

down·​cy·​cle ˈdau̇n-ˌsī-kəl How to pronounce downcycle (audio)
downcycled; downcycling; downcycles
: to recycle (something) in such a way that the resulting product is of a lower value than the original item : to create an object of lesser value from (a discarded object of higher value)
Other companies that claim to recycle carpet actually "downcycle" it, taking used carpet, chopping it up, and reusing it in lower-grade products such as carpet backing.Hunter L. Lovins and Amory B. Lovins, Forum for Applied Research and Public Policy, 22 Dec. 2000
compare upcycle
downcycling noun
Traditional recycling is sometimes described as downcycling because the quality of the material degrades with each life cycle. Recycled paper isn't as nice as newly printed paper; recycled steel isn't as strong as newly forged steel. Paul McFedries, IEEE Spectrum, October 2008

down cycle

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variants or less commonly downcycle
plural down cycles also downcycles
: a cycle or part of a cycle marked by decline, decrease, or deterioration: such as
: a period of economic contraction
Companies that dominate the market place almost like monopolies can be reasonably sure of protecting revenues as well as margins even in an economic downcycle.Ramkrishna Kashlekar, Economic Times, 27 May 2010
: a period during which something (such as a rate, price, or stock value) decreases
Commercial real estate moves in cycles, and this down cycle is likely to be shallow and short-lived.Justin Donaldson, Washington Post, 5 Aug. 2013
: a period of decreased or decreasing success, popularity, or availability
They were slow to move on from older players when their 1970s dynasty came to an end. That, along with some poor drafts, led to a down cycle for the franchise that produced just four appearances and two playoff victories in the 1980s.Ray Fittipaldo, Pittsburgh-Post Gazette, 19 Oct. 2014
No position values experience quite like catching, and a down cycle of young catchers has kept older backstops working.Tom Verducci, Sports Illustrated, 15 Mar. 2010
compare up cycle

Word History

First Known Use

Transitive Verb

1995, in the meaning defined above


1894, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of downcycle was in 1894

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Dictionary Entries Near downcycle

down cycle



Cite this Entry

“Downcycle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Sep. 2023.

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