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ˈshriŋk How to pronounce shrink (audio)
 especially Southern  ˈsriŋk
shrank ˈshraŋk How to pronounce shrink (audio)
or shrunk ˈshrəŋk How to pronounce shrink (audio)
; shrunk or shrunken ˈshrəŋ-kən How to pronounce shrink (audio)
; shrinking

intransitive verb

: to contract or curl up the body or part of it : huddle, cower
: to contract to less extent or compass
: to become smaller or more compacted
: to lose substance or weight
: to lessen in value : dwindle
: to recoil instinctively (as from something painful or horrible)
shrank from the challenge
: to hold oneself back : refrain
did not shrink from telling the truth

transitive verb

: to cause to contract or shrink
specifically : to compact (cloth) by causing to contract when subjected to washing, boiling, steaming, or other processes
shrinkable adjective
shrinker noun


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: the act of shrinking
[short for headshrinker] : a clinical psychiatrist or psychologist
Choose the Right Synonym for shrink

contract, shrink, condense, compress, constrict, deflate mean to decrease in bulk or volume.

contract applies to a drawing together of surfaces or particles or a reduction of area or length.

caused her muscles to contract

shrink implies a contracting or a loss of material and stresses a falling short of original dimensions.

the sweater will shrink when washed

condense implies a reducing of something homogeneous to greater compactness without significant loss of content.

condense the essay into a paragraph

compress implies a pressing into a small compass and definite shape usually against resistance.

compressed cotton into bales

constrict implies a tightening that reduces diameter.

the throat is constricted by a tight collar

deflate implies a contracting by reducing the internal pressure of contained air or gas.

deflate the balloon

recoil, shrink, flinch, wince, blench, quail mean to draw back in fear or distaste.

recoil implies a start or movement away through shock, fear, or disgust.

recoiled at the suggestion of stealing

shrink suggests an instinctive recoil through sensitiveness, scrupulousness, or cowardice.

shrank from the unpleasant truth

flinch implies a failure to endure pain or face something dangerous or frightening with resolution.

faced her accusers without flinching

wince suggests a slight involuntary physical reaction (such as a start or recoiling).

winced in pain

blench implies fainthearted flinching.

stood their ground without blenching

quail suggests shrinking and cowering in fear.

quailed before the apparition

Examples of shrink in a Sentence

Verb The sweater shrank when it was washed. Meat shrinks as it cooks. The town's population shrank during the war. Hot water shrank the sweater. The treatment should shrink the tumor. He shrank in horror when he saw the dead cat. Noun He is seeing a shrink. See More
Recent Examples on the Web
But other governments, including Germany, suggested that their offers of assistance had been met with silence, causing puzzlement and consternation, given the size of the challenge and the shrinking time left to find survivors. Kareem Fahim, Washington Post, 11 Sep. 2023 Given the ban on race-conscious admissions, and the need to attract applicants from a shrinking pool of potential students, many colleges are looking to create a more welcoming environment. Michael Powell,, 9 Sep. 2023 The surveys reflect weakening consumer demand coupled with shrinking backlogs and a persistent difficulty in hiring. Bryan Mena, CNN, 9 Sep. 2023 And right now, in Texas, far too many of us are fish in a shrinking rock pool. Megha Satyanarayana, Scientific American, 8 Sep. 2023 Audit rates have dropped precipitously in recent decades due to the IRS' shrinking workforce. Aimee Picchi, CBS News, 8 Sep. 2023 Lasagna beds will shrink as materials decompose and may need refreshed layers each year. oregonlive, 7 Sep. 2023 While offering video channels remains profitable, the margins are shrinking, analysts said. Meg James, Los Angeles Times, 6 Sep. 2023 And Ada Tseng gives tips to parents on how to shrink those big piles of plastic toys. Russ Mitchell, Los Angeles Times, 29 Aug. 2023
As a result, in 2022 the global UHNW population fell for the first time in four years—decreasing by 5.4%, representing the most drastic shrink since 2015. Chloe Berger, Fortune, 8 Sep. 2023 That provides a winking in-joke for domestic audiences in his casting here as another shrink, Celeste, the title character’s despondent father, who generally has his head too deep in books to look at life. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, 7 Sep. 2023 Now, high rent prices are driving long-time residents to new buildings, and the cycle continues — the coastline shrinks, and public housing is replaced in favor of cheap, convenient, and climate-insecure new buildings. Arya Rao and Shira Hornstein, STAT, 29 Aug. 2023 Stores are locking up products:How that's affecting paying customers While organized retail crime and shoplifting are a serious concern for retailers, some analysts have said companies may be discounting other causes of shrink. Bailey Schulz, USA TODAY, 23 Aug. 2023 According to the National Retail Federation, the industry’s biggest trade group, large-scale store theft is becoming a bigger part of retail shrink. Parija Kavilanz, CNN, 22 Aug. 2023 That’s how Donya gets to see a shrink without an appointment: just by staring the receptionist into submission. Anthony Lane, The New Yorker, 18 Aug. 2023 So, shrink can come from a lot of things, external theft, internal thefts, items that are lost or damaged. Taylor Wilson, USA TODAY, 4 Aug. 2023 India has a young, vast work force that is expanding as China's ages and shrinks. Time, 28 July 2023 See More

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

Word History



Middle English, from Old English scrincan; akin to Middle Dutch schrinken to draw back

First Known Use


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1


1590, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of shrink was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near shrink

Cite this Entry

“Shrink.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 verb
shrank ˈshraŋk How to pronounce shrink (audio) or shrunk ˈshrəŋk How to pronounce shrink (audio) ; shrunk or shrunken ˈshrəŋ-kən How to pronounce shrink (audio) ; shrinking
: to curl up or withdraw in or as if in fear or pain
shrink in horror
: to make or become smaller
shrink cloth by washing
meat shrinks in cooking
shrinker noun


2 of 2 noun

Medical Definition


: a clinical psychiatrist or psychologist

called also headshrinker

More from Merriam-Webster on shrink

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