Definition of attrition in English:

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Pronunciation: /əˈtrɪʃ(ə)n/


[mass noun]
1The process of reducing something’s strength or effectiveness through sustained attack or pressure: the council is trying to wear down the opposition by attrition the squadron suffered severe attrition of its bombers
More example sentences
  • He counted on air supremacy to allow his forces to reduce the communists by attrition, and he seemed to believe that UN ground forces could handle the survivors.
  • As long as the war was kept in that context, they could sustain the years of attrition.
  • Their game is a form of physical attrition of the opposition.
wearing down, wearing away, weakening, debilitation, enfeebling, sapping, attenuation;
harassment, harrying
1.1chiefly North American & Australian /NZ The gradual reduction of a workforce by employees leaving and not being replaced rather than by redundancy: the company said that it will reduce its worldwide employment by about 10% through attrition
More example sentences
  • Steps like these have helped it shrink its workforce through attrition, from a peak of 804,000 in 1999 to 701,000 today.
  • To that end, given the demographics of our workforce, we plan to achieve much of this reduction via attrition and early-retirement programs.
  • Retirement was listed as the reason for 9.2% of the employee attrition.
1.2Wearing away by friction; abrasion: the skull shows attrition of the edges of the teeth
More example sentences
  • Teeth may be damaged by dental caries, trauma, erosion, attrition, and abrasion or lost through periodontal disease.
  • Further, X-rays showed there was no deposit of secondary dentine as would have been expected if the abrasion had been due to natural attrition before death.
  • In this hypothesis, the silts form by aeolian abrasion and attrition of sand grains and by rock-weathering processes.
abrasion, friction, rubbing, chafing, corroding, corrosion, erosion, eating away, grinding, scraping, wearing away, wearing, excoriation, deterioration, damaging
rare detrition
2(In scholastic theology) sorrow for sin, falling short of contrition.
Example sentences
  • I should mention before I go through with this final act of attrition that if I misbehaved so egregiously over the past year, it must certainly reflect negatively on you both as parents.



Example sentences
  • This will be a very hard, attritional war, and there will be casualties.
  • The war would be waged as an attritional struggle against the occupying forces.
  • The game took a decidedly attritional approach from the beginning.


Late Middle English (in sense 2): from late Latin attritio(n-), from atterere 'to rub'.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: at|tri¦tion

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