less·en | \ ˈle-sᵊn \
lessened; lessening\ˈles-niŋ, ˈle-sᵊn-iŋ \

Definition of lessen 

intransitive verb

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

transitive verb

1 : to reduce in size, extent, or degree lessen tensions between nations

2a archaic : to represent as of little value

b : to lower in status or dignity : degrade

Keep scrolling for more

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

The political pressure on Mr. Cuomo over the verdicts is not expected to lessen. New York Times, "Cuomo’s Rivals Look to Tie Him to Corruption Convictions of Top Aides," 13 July 2018 In a decision that imposed no conditions, Leon came to the conclusion that the government hadn't proved its case that the vertical merger between the two companies was likely to lessen competition. Eriq Gardner, The Hollywood Reporter, "Justice Department Appealing Decision Allowing AT&T-Time Warner Merger," 12 July 2018 The Trump administration has sought to lessen the CFPB's authority and decrease its budget. Kathryn Watson, CBS News, "What you need to know about Trump's top SCOTUS contenders," 8 July 2018 The urgency to get the Drought Contingency Plan done certainly has magnified, and is more important than ever to lessen the probability of the lake falling to more unhealthy levels. Jim Carlton, WSJ, "Falling Lake Mead Water Levels Prompt Detente in Arizona Feud," 7 July 2018 But unlike most automakers—Ford, GM, BMW, Toyota, [to name a few]—that automate to lessen the burden on their workers, Musk wanted to replace [the workers]. Chuck Tannert, Popular Mechanics, "Can Tesla Keep Up the Model 3 Pace?," 2 July 2018 The frenetic pace began to lessen, as both sides began to pace themselves after the gung-ho start. SI.com, "Costa Rica 0-1 Serbia: Kolarov Cracker Sees White Eagles Soar to Victory Over Lacklustre Los Ticos," 17 June 2018 Madeleine Brand, radio host with KCRW Los Angeles The jungle primary was supposed to lessen the importance of political parties. Amy Chance, sacbee, "California Influencers: What did we learn from the June primary election, and why?," 11 June 2018 Officials say the smoke should begin to lessen and move northeast later Saturday. Fox News, "The Latest: More evacuations ordered at Colorado wildfire," 9 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'lessen.' 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 lessen

13th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about lessen

Dictionary Entries near lessen







lesser adjutant

Statistics for lessen

Last Updated

1 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for lessen

The first known use of lessen was in the 13th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for lessen



English Language Learners Definition of lessen

: to become less or to cause (something) to become less


less·en | \ ˈle-sᵊn \
lessened; lessening

Kids Definition of lessen

: to make or become fewer or smaller in amount

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on lessen

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


to make amends

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Syn City

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!