less·​en ˈle-sᵊn How to pronounce lessen (audio)
lessened; lessening ˈle-sᵊn-iŋ How to pronounce lessen (audio)

intransitive verb

: to shrink in size, number, or degree : decrease
The pain will lessen over time.

transitive verb

: to reduce in size, extent, or degree
lessen tensions between nations
archaic : to represent as of little value
: to lower in status or dignity : degrade
Choose the Right Synonym for lessen

decrease, lessen, diminish, reduce, abate, dwindle mean to grow or make less.

decrease suggests a progressive decline in size, amount, numbers, or intensity.

slowly decreased the amount of pressure

lessen suggests a decline in amount rather than in number.

has been unable to lessen her debt

diminish emphasizes a perceptible loss and implies its subtraction from a total.

his visual acuity has diminished

reduce implies a bringing down or lowering.

you must reduce your caloric intake

abate implies a reducing of something excessive or oppressive in force or amount.

the storm abated

dwindle implies progressive lessening and is applied to things growing visibly smaller.

their provisions dwindled slowly

Examples of lessen in a Sentence

Medication helps lessen the severity of the symptoms. we lessened our efforts as it became clear they weren't having an effect
Recent Examples on the Web Cortisol plays a role in the body’s response to stress, as well as other key bodily functions, such as lessening inflammation, controlling blood sugar and blood pressure, and ensuring that the heart and blood vessels are working properly. Madeline Nguyen, The Arizona Republic, 25 Feb. 2024 Suggestions included residents lessening their own water use on landscaping. Laylan Connelly, Orange County Register, 25 Feb. 2024 The track’s sales and streaming power are quickly lessening. Hugh McIntyre, Forbes, 22 Feb. 2024 The knee injury could lessen his market value and put him in a play for a team seeking a former starter as a No. 3. ▪ Kansas City’s Mecole Hardman: Tyreek Hill’s former teammate was virtually given away by the Jets to the Chiefs before the trade deadline, when Kansas City needed receiving help. Barry Jackson, Miami Herald, 22 Feb. 2024 And could more Black cardiologists help lessen the burden of heart disease? Elizabeth Both, NBC News, 19 Feb. 2024 The enjoyment lessened somewhat for older respondents whose sight and hearing had deteriorated. Terry Spencer, Fortune, 19 Feb. 2024 Reducing the count of vehicle lanes from six to four, thereby lessening pedestrian crossing distances. Matthew Glowicki, The Courier-Journal, 19 Feb. 2024 This enables them to provide continuous feedback to improve the experience, and adapt to new application interfaces to lessen the impact of change. Dxc Technology, USA TODAY, 1 Feb. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'lessen.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

Time Traveler
The first known use of lessen was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near lessen

Cite this Entry

“Lessen.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lessen. Accessed 1 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


less·​en ˈles-ᵊn How to pronounce lessen (audio)
lessened; lessening ˈles-niŋ How to pronounce lessen (audio)
: to make or become less

More from Merriam-Webster on lessen

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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