short·​en ˈshȯr-tᵊn How to pronounce shorten (audio)
shortened; shortening ˈshȯrt-niŋ How to pronounce shorten (audio)

transitive verb

: to reduce the length or duration of
: to cause to seem short
: to reduce in power or efficiency
is my hand shortened, that it cannot redeemIsaiah 50:2 (Revised Standard Version)
obsolete : to deprive of effect
: to add fat to (something, such as pastry dough) in order to make tender and flaky

intransitive verb

: to become short or shorter
ˈshȯrt-nər How to pronounce shorten (audio)
Choose the Right Synonym for shorten

shorten, curtail, abbreviate, abridge, retrench mean to reduce in extent.

shorten implies reduction in length or duration.

shorten a speech

curtail adds an implication of cutting that in some way deprives of completeness or adequacy.

ceremonies curtailed because of rain

abbreviate implies a making shorter usually by omitting some part.

using an abbreviated title

abridge implies a reduction in compass or scope with retention of essential elements and a relative completeness in the result.

the abridged version of the novel

retrench suggests a reduction in extent or costs of something felt to be excessive.

declining business forced the company to retrench

Examples of shorten in a Sentence

shorten a pair of pants He had to shorten the speech. “Franklin D. Roosevelt” is often shortened to “FDR.”
Recent Examples on the Web Stephens and sympathetic letter-writers don’t realize that each such letter lends support to Hamas, extending rather than shortening the invasion, tending to worsen rather than alleviate conditions in Gaza. Letters To The Editor, The Mercury News, 27 Feb. 2024 After the 2020 harvest, James shortened the aging process and refocused the blending on a more specific subsoil delineation. Irene S. Levine, Forbes, 26 Feb. 2024 Under the reforms the legislature shortened the amount of time that a nonviolent conviction could trigger the three-strikes law for habitual offenders. Tim Craig, Washington Post, 19 Feb. 2024 Doing such activities beforehand can shorten the life span of your lamination. Essence, 16 Feb. 2024 However, Playbill said the high school production has be rewritten so the new script shortens the length and includes adjustments to the highly technical effects of the original production. Chris Sims, The Courier-Journal, 15 Feb. 2024 This is achieved by using only one serve, which leaves less room for aces, alternating serves every two points, shortening the time between points, and using regular scoring (less specialized tennis jargon to confuse newbies). Elizabeth Doerr, Robb Report, 15 Feb. 2024 Borrowers with only undergraduate student loans can receive loan forgiveness after 20 years in repayment, although it can be shortened to as little as 10 years for those with small initial starting balances. Adam S. Minsky, Forbes, 15 Feb. 2024 Julie’s seven-year sentence, on the other hand, was shortened by 14 months. Esther Kang, Peoplemag, 14 Feb. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'shorten.' 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 transitive sense 1a

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

Dictionary Entries Near shorten

Cite this Entry

“Shorten.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


short·​en ˈshȯrt-ᵊn How to pronounce shorten (audio)
shortened; shortening ˈshȯrt-niŋ How to pronounce shorten (audio)
: to make or become short or shorter
: to add shortening to (as pastry dough)
-nər How to pronounce shorten (audio)

More from Merriam-Webster on shorten

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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