\ˈshriŋk, especially Southern ˈsriŋk\
shrank\ ˈshraŋk , ˈsraŋk \ or shrunk\ ˈshrəŋk , ˈsrəŋk \; shrunk or shrunken\ ˈshrəŋ-​kən , ˈsrəŋ-​ \; shrinking

Definition of shrink 

(Entry 1 of 2)

intransitive verb

1 : to contract or curl up the body or part of it : huddle, cower

2a : to contract to less extent or compass

b : to become smaller or more compacted

c : to lose substance or weight

d : to lessen in value : dwindle

3a : to recoil instinctively (as from something painful or horrible) shrank from the challenge

b : 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



Definition of shrink (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : the act of shrinking

2 : shrinkage

3 [ short for headshrinker ] : a clinical psychiatrist or psychologist

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Other Words from shrink


shrinkable \ ˈshriŋ-​kə-​bəl , ˈsriŋ-​ \ adjective
shrinker noun

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


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.


He is seeing a shrink.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The result is a U.K. that not only loses out economically but that also sees its shrinking influence on the world stage condensed neatly into a two-year negotiating window that’s rapidly closing. Ian Bremmer, Time, "The United Kingdom’s ‘Brexit Dream’ has Become a Waking Nightmare," 12 July 2018 The incumbent’s 41-vote lead on primary night started to shrink when absentee and provisional ballots were counted this week. Kate Magill, Howard County Times, "Howard County Council incumbent ousted in primary by two votes," 6 July 2018 Several outlets report that after a monthslong review of potential ways to shrink the federal government, on Thursday the Trump administration will propose merging the Education and Labor departments. Margaret Hartmann, Daily Intelligencer, "White House to Propose Merging Labor and Education Departments, Rebranding Welfare," 21 June 2018 Mnuchin said so after China pledged to buy more from the U.S., especially energy and agricultural products and to shrink America's gaping trade gap with China — $336 billion last year. NBC News, "Trump slaps China with $50 billion in tariffs, Beijing immediately hits back, report says," 16 June 2018 The faction, comprising the Labor and Hatnuah parties, has been steadily slipping in the polls, and its base has significantly shrunk since Gabbay was named its leader in July 2017. Mati Tuchfeld, Jewish Journal, "Zionist Union leader: Western Wall does not belong only to Jews," 13 June 2018 The cuts come as the company aims to shrink costs and become profitable, Musk said. The Washington Post,, "Tesla, still losing money, is also shedding jobs," 12 June 2018 For now, the team is trying to shrink this pill by two-thirds by reducing the power demands and the battery size. Elizabeth Pennisi, Science | AAAS, "Bacteria in a pill may one day track your body’s chemistry," 24 May 2018 The aim was to shrink the tumor or, at least keep it from getting any bigger to save Zara's remaining eyesight. Andrea Simakis,, "Cleveland Clinic, parents clash over girl's brain tumor treatment; court to decide," 13 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

With wages remaining stagnant (even as the unemployment rate shrinks), gains like these can make a big difference in the stability of women's lives, long term., "The Supreme Court's Janus Ruling Is A Blow To Black Women," 27 June 2018 Some of the best material had Jessie in therapy — with a shrink played by Zwick. Matthew Gilbert,, "Ten actors who shone even before they were stars," 28 June 2018 That's because as Antarctica's mass shrinks, the ice sheet's gravitational pull on the ocean relaxes somewhat, and the seas travel back across the globe to pile up far away - with U.S. coasts being one prime destination. Chris Mooney,, "Antarctic ice loss has tripled in a decade. If that continues we are in serious trouble.," 13 June 2018 The size of an area indicated in the forecast track has shrunk by 35-percent since 2008 and since last year, experts witnessed the cone’s 5-day track shrink by 6-percent., "Hurricane Center offers new communication tools," 30 May 2018 Sure, Embiid needs to get into better shape, Simmons needs a jumper, Brown needs to adjust faster, Colangelo needs to be in the LeBron Sweepstakes and Fultz maybe needs a shrink. Marcus Hayes,, "Philly sports fans should enjoy the ride | Marcus Hayes," 13 May 2018 But again, that doesn’t mean all this offseason drama couldn’t bite them down the line in the playoffs, when the margin for error shrinks. Albert Breer,, "Dolphins Reset, Patriots Regroup, NFL Recharges," 4 June 2018 In Europe, too, demand for low-skilled labor will only increase as the continent's population ages and, in some cases, shrinks. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, "Does the West actually face a migration crisis?," 28 June 2018 Many investors have abandoned stock pickers as the U.S. stock market shrinks and money surges into low-cost indexes. Dawn Lim, WSJ, "How One Small School’s Endowment Is Topping the Class," 24 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'shrink.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of shrink


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


1590, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for shrink


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

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Statistics for shrink

Last Updated

26 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for shrink

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

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More Definitions for shrink



English Language Learners Definition of shrink

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to become smaller in amount, size, or value

: to make (something) smaller in amount, size, or value

: to quickly move away from something shocking, frightening, or disgusting



English Language Learners Definition of shrink (Entry 2 of 2)

: a psychiatrist or psychologist


\ˈshriŋk \
shrank\ ˈshraŋk \ or shrunk\ ˈshrəŋk \; shrunk or shrunken\ ˈshrəŋ-​kən \; shrinking

Kids Definition of shrink

1 : to make or become smaller The sweater shrank when it got wet.

2 : to curl up or move back in or as if in fear or pain Just the thought of all this made Tom shrink back uncomfortably in his chair.— Andrew Clements, Frindle

3 : to refrain from doing something especially because of difficulty or unpleasantness He did not shrink from telling the truth.


\ˈshriŋk \

Medical Definition of shrink 

: a clinical psychiatrist or psychologist

called also headshrinker

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Comments on shrink

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


to express warning or disapproval

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