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, 12 June 2024 On one hand, a resilient labor market lessens the chance that the economy will tip into recession. Krystal Hur, CNN, 10 June 2024 La Niña conditions can help spark Atlantic hurricane activity by lessening wind shear in the tropics, according to NOAA. Abigail Adams, Peoplemag, 24 May 2024 Encouraging men to carry more of the burden of infertility can help improve men’s health, while lessening pressure on women who endure the arduous processes of egg-freezing, IVF, and other treatments. Emma Hinchliffe, Fortune, 23 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for lessen 

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 21 Jun. 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

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