Definition of attrition in English:


Line breaks: at|tri¦tion
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.
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.
2(In scholastic theology) sorrow for sin, falling short of contrition.
More 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.


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



More 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.

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