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decay

noun

Synonyms & Antonyms of decay

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 a gradual sinking and wasting away of mind or body
  • middle-aged people who fervently hope that daily exercise will arrest the physical decay that usually accompanies advancing age

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2 the process by which dead organic matter separates into simpler substances
  • the cycle by which the decay of dead plants on the forest floor provides soil and nutrients for the next generation of plants

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decay

verb

Synonyms & Antonyms of decay (Entry 2 of 2)

1 to go through decomposition
  • the logs decayed on the rain forest floor
  • the atom of plutonium decayed in the test chamber

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2 to become worse or of less value
  • the restaurant's standards for food and service had decayed over the years

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3 to lose bodily strength or vigor
  • having reached her 80s, the woman could sense that her body was decaying

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See the Dictionary Definition 

Frequently Asked Questions About decay

How is the word decay different from other verbs like it?

Some common synonyms of decay are decompose, putrefy, rot, and spoil. While all these words mean "to undergo destructive dissolution," decay implies a slow change from a state of soundness or perfection.

a decaying mansion

Where would decompose be a reasonable alternative to decay?

While the synonyms decompose and decay are close in meaning, decompose stresses a breaking down by chemical change and when applied to organic matter a corruption.

the strong odor of decomposing vegetation

In what contexts can putrefy take the place of decay?

In some situations, the words putrefy and decay are roughly equivalent. However, putrefy implies the rotting of animal matter and offensiveness to sight and smell.

corpses putrefying on the battlefield

How are the words rot and decompose related as synonyms of decay?

Rot is a close synonym of decompose and often connotes foulness.

fruit was left to rot in warehouses

When is spoil a more appropriate choice than decay?

The meanings of spoil and decay largely overlap; however, spoil applies chiefly to the decomposition of foods.

keep the ham from spoiling

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Time Traveler for decay

Time Traveler

The first known use of decay was in the 15th century

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Cite this Entry

“Decay.” Merriam-Webster.com Thesaurus, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/decay. Accessed 24 Jan. 2021.

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More from Merriam-Webster on decay

Dictionary: Definition of decay

Medical Dictionary: Definition of decay

Nglish: Translation of decay for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of decay for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about decay

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