thin

1 of 3

adjective

thinner; thinnest
1
a
: having little extent from one surface to its opposite
thin paper
b
: measuring little in cross section or diameter
thin rope
2
: not dense in arrangement or distribution
thin hair
3
: not well fleshed : lean
4
a
: more fluid or rarefied than normal
thin air
b
: having less than the usual number : scanty
thin attendance
c
: few in number : scarce
d
: scantily supplied
e
: characterized by a paucity of bids or offerings
a thin market
5
a
: lacking substance or strength
thin broth
a thin plot
b
of a soil : infertile, poor
6
a
: flimsy, unconvincing
a thin disguise
b
: disappointingly poor or hard
had a thin time of it
7
: somewhat feeble, shrill, and lacking in resonance
a thin voice
8
: lacking in intensity or brilliance
thin light
9
: lacking sufficient photographic density or contrast
thinly adverb
thinness noun
thinnish adjective

thin

2 of 3

verb

thinned; thinning

transitive verb

: to make thin or thinner:
a
: to reduce in thickness or depth : attenuate
b
: to make less dense or viscous
c
d
: to cause to lose flesh
thinned by weeks of privation
e
: to reduce in number or bulk

intransitive verb

1
: to become thin or thinner
2
: to become weak

thin

3 of 3

adverb

thinner; thinnest
: in a thin manner : thinly
used especially in combination
thin-clad
thin-flowing
Phrases
thin on the ground
Choose the Right Synonym for thin

thin, slender, slim, slight, tenuous mean not thick, broad, abundant, or dense.

thin implies comparatively little extension between surfaces or in diameter, or it may imply lack of substance, richness, or abundance.

thin wire
a thin soup

slender implies leanness or spareness often with grace and good proportion.

the slender legs of a Sheraton chair

slim applies to slenderness that suggests fragility or scantiness.

a slim volume of poetry
a slim chance

slight implies smallness as well as thinness.

a slight build

tenuous implies extreme thinness, sheerness, or lack of substance and firmness.

a tenuous thread

Examples of thin in a Sentence

Adjective a thin coating of dust pizza with a thin crust a thin slice of ham a thin stand of trees Verb He added a little more water to thin the gravy. The haze thinned in the late afternoon. His face has been thinned by illness. Adverb She sliced the cheese thin. See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Adjective
Honor had to build entirely new components to fit into a foldable phone this thin. Ben Sin, Forbes, 13 Feb. 2024 However, some parents may feel like the set is too thin, especially for heavy winters. Katrina Cossey, Parents, 12 Feb. 2024 The audience learns a similar amount with this approach, perhaps, but Anjin learns less and has less agency, and the book’s two key relationships — the evolving romance between Anjin and Mariko and the odd, testing friendship between Anjin and Toranaga — are left thin. Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter, 12 Feb. 2024 Unlike most meteorites, which have a thin crust of black glass, aubrites do not appear glossy or dark in color. Tara Wu, Smithsonian Magazine, 12 Feb. 2024 Using a bench scraper or large offset spatula, spread a thin layer of frosting (about ½ cup) over sides of cake. Anna Theoktisto, Southern Living, 9 Feb. 2024 But the production was thin on new ideas about how to help patients pay less for medicines, and Sanders’ efforts to goad the executives into lowering prices or freezing their salaries did not work. Ed Silverman Reprints, STAT, 9 Feb. 2024 That’s difficult for many indie labels, whose margins can often be akin to a small restaurant, where cash is at a premium and wiggle room is often extremely thin. Dan Rys, Billboard, 8 Feb. 2024 Express forecast Today: Sunny with thin high clouds. David Streit, Washington Post, 8 Feb. 2024
Verb
As the ranks of the royals have thinned, William’s family has come to the foreground at events like the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II and the coronation of Charles. Mark Landler, New York Times, 7 Feb. 2024 Injuries to the Sharks and Barracuda have thinned out both team’s rosters to some degree. Curtis Pashelka, The Mercury News, 6 Feb. 2024 With the strikes thinning out the 2024 film slate, will buyers have more of an appetite for indies? Ryan Faughnder, Los Angeles Times, 16 Jan. 2024 The main side effect of any steroid use is thinning of the skin. Heather L. Brannon, Md, Verywell Health, 27 Jan. 2024 The ranks, thinned by mounting casualties, are only being partly replenished, often with older and poorly trained recruits. Thomas Gibbons-Neff Finbarr O’Reilly, New York Times, 13 Jan. 2024 The summer crowds have thinned, the air is crisp and cool, and the leaves turn brilliant shades of orange, red and yellow. Linnea Bailey, Travel + Leisure, 10 Jan. 2024 Instead the researchers argue that the extinction happened earlier in the ecosystem shift, long before the trees thinned. Meghan Bartels, Scientific American, 10 Jan. 2024 Swelling settlements thinned woodlands and pared back grasslands, potentially chipping away at the bears’ vegetarian menus. Katherine J. Wu, The Atlantic, 10 Jan. 2024
Adverb
Some like small strips of pastry dropped into the bubbling pot, either free-form and puffy or rolled thin and cut like noodles. Southern Living Test Kitchen, Southern Living, 30 Dec. 2023 As Pakistan approaches fresh elections on Feb. 8, the 71-year-old’s chances of a comeback appear gossamer thin, despite retaining broad public support. Charlie Campbell, TIME, 17 Jan. 2024 Border enforcement resources have been stretched thin, resulting in reallocation of agents to assist with processing asylum requests. Michael Smolens, San Diego Union-Tribune, 7 Jan. 2024 With as many recruits as teams bring in, the social teams can be spread thin trying to photograph every family. Kevin Reynolds, The Salt Lake Tribune, 19 Sep. 2023 The colors are flat, the lines uniform and thin, the pages strict grids of small panels. Gabriel Winslow-Yost, The New York Review of Books, 29 June 2023 The very deepest lows thin out somewhat at maximum volume levels (digital signal processing, or DSP, kicks in to prevent distortion), but the speaker still gets plenty loud and produces full, deep bass at moderate volume settings. PCMAG, 18 Sep. 2023 Putin seeks further support for his war in Ukraine as military resources are stretched thin, while Kim's regime is pushing for assistance with its space program and its desiccated economy. Anders Hagstrom, Fox News, 13 Sep. 2023 The beef version is even better, with meat sliced thin then chopped into shards that brim with rich hickory smoke. Robert F. Moss, Southern Living, 12 Sep. 2023 See More

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

Word History

Etymology

Adjective

Middle English thin, thinne, going back to Old English þynne, going back to Germanic *þunnu- (assimilated to the -ja-stem adjectives in West Germanic, whence Middle Dutch dunne "thin," Old High German dunni, against Old Norse þunnr), generalized from a paradigm *þenu-, *þunw-a-, going back to Indo-European *ténh2u-, *tn̥h2u̯ó-, whence also, from with a base *tenh2u-, *tn̥h2u- with varying ablaut and suffixation, Old Irish tanae "thin, slender," Old Welsh teneu, Middle Breton tanau, Latin tenuis "fine-drawn, thin, narrow, slight," Greek tanu- "extended, long," tanaós "outstretched, long," Old Church Slavic tĭnŭkŭ "fine, delicate," Russian tónkij "thin," Croatian & Serbian tȁnak, Lithuanian tę́vas, Sanskrit tanúḥ, tánukaḥ "thin, small"

Note: Indo-European *tenh2u-, *tn̥h2u- is usually taken to be a derivative of the verbal base *ten- "stretch, extend"; see tenant entry 1.

Verb

Middle English thinnen, going back to Old English þynnian, derivative of þynne thin entry 1

Adverb

Middle English thynne, derivative of thin, thinne thin entry 1

First Known Use

Adjective

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

Verb

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

Adverb

13th century, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near thin

Cite this Entry

“Thin.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/thin. Accessed 24 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

thin

1 of 2 adjective
thinner; thinnest
1
: having little extent from one surface to its opposite
thin paper
2
: having widely scattered units
thin hair
3
: having too little flesh
a tall thin boy
4
: less dense than normal
thin air
5
: lacking substance or strength
thin broth
thin excuses
6
: somewhat weak or shrill
a thin voice
thinly adverb
thinness noun

thin

2 of 2 verb
thinned; thinning
1
: to make or become thin
2
: to reduce in number especially to prevent crowding
thin young carrots in the garden

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