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

Example Sentences

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 Overall, Harris is optimistic about the program helping lessen the burden on the criminal justice system and presenting fair plea deals to defendants. oregonlive, 9 Jan. 2023 Metro officials say removing fares will increase ridership, save riders money, lessen the possibility of fare-evasion conflicts with drivers and make service faster with all-door boarding. Justin George, Washington Post, 10 Dec. 2022 These allergy soft chew works to lessen symptoms and enhance allergic responses. Amber Smith, Discover Magazine, 17 Oct. 2022 Fortunately, in my experience, there are a number of alternative investments that can help lessen the effects of inflation and even secure wealth. Thomas Schröck, Forbes, 16 Aug. 2022 Ukraine brokered by the U.N., are steps that might lessen the tension and improve a very bad relationship. Abc News, ABC News, 16 Aug. 2022 Vessels that lessen clutter and bring style to any space. New York Times, 8 Aug. 2022 Midwest Access Coalition helps lessen that difficulty, and even aids underage women in obtaining help without contacting a parent or legal guardian. Oscar Hartzog, Rolling Stone, 11 May 2022 Supply chain management can lessen suffering on both ends of the migrant trail by paying attention to the human impact of our work. Kevin O'marah, Forbes, 29 Dec. 2022 See More

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.

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 2 Feb. 2023.

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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