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 This workshop will provide education and coping tools to help lessen some of the emotional stressors common during the holiday season. Laura Groch, San Diego Union-Tribune, 6 Nov. 2022 Cincinnati took advantage of a depleted Falcons secondary last week and all those injuries will help lessen the blow of Chase being sidelined. Michael Niziolek, cleveland, 30 Oct. 2022 Researchers hope those insights in turn may help lessen disruptions that the eruptions could cause to power grids and navigation systems on Earth. Byscience News Staff, science.org, 13 Oct. 2022 This could help lessen the likelihood that during tough times DEI efforts are viewed as an expendable luxury instead of a significant component for helping to overcome those hard times. Dr. Nika White, Forbes, 3 Oct. 2022 There are ways to help lessen the chances of exposure, Sojka said, but the most effective way to prevent the virus is through a vaccine. Pam Mcloughlin, Hartford Courant, 20 Sep. 2022 Getting extra sleep after a night of drinking might help lessen the blow, experts say. Jay Cannon, USA TODAY, 3 July 2022 Holding events outside or opening windows and doors can also help lessen the chance of spread. Luke Money, Los Angeles Times, 29 June 2022 Shrinking a bit could also ultimately help lessen certain capital requirements for global systemic banks and boost return on equity. Telis Demos, WSJ, 16 June 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 29 Nov. 2022.

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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