There are 2 main definitions of sink in English:

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sink 1

Pronunciation: /sɪŋk/

verb (past sank /saŋk/; past participle sunk /sʌŋk/)

1 [no object] Go down below the surface of something, especially of a liquid; become submerged: he saw the coffin sink below the surface of the waves
More example sentences
  • The rock promptly sank below the surface, submerging the hook and its bait.
  • It skipped several times before it sunk down below the surface.
  • That part became waterlogged, so it sunk below the surface, but didn't lose its ability to float.
become submerged, be engulfed, go down, drop, fall, descend;
1.1(Of a ship) go to the bottom of the sea or some other body of water because of damage or a collision: the trawler sank with the loss of all six crew
More example sentences
  • What do you grab onto when the ship is sinking and the waters are closing over your head?
  • We kept getting closer and closer to the water as the ship sank.
  • The government's response was to distance itself from the tragedy, claiming repeatedly that the boat had sunk in Indonesian waters.
founder, go under, submerge, capsize
1.2 [with object] Cause (a ship) to sink: a freak wave sank their boat near the shore
More example sentences
  • One Carthaginian sea captain sank his ship rather than let his charts fall into Roman hands.
  • Submarines were supposed to surface and give crews time to abandon ship before sinking their vessels.
  • So, Ford wants to sink the ship rather than allow the flagship of the Russian sub fleet get into enemy hands.
scupper, scuttle, send to the bottom, open the seacocks in
1.3Fail and not be seen or heard of again: the film sank virtually without trace
More example sentences
  • Hugh Laurie's intelligence and charm keep this strained romantic comedy from sinking completely.
  • As for movies, Blade Runner ran by them, Star Wars failed to shine, and Titanic sank without trace.
  • A complex land-swap deal will sink if the city reneges on existing deals.
1.4 [with object] Cause to fail: this pledge could sink the government
More example sentences
  • Nevertheless, although the movie's self-importance causes the project to take on water, it fails to sink it.
  • The bid was finally sunk last weekend when the existing course could not stand up to torrential rain.
  • Their public revelation of the deal's contents even before the votes were cast looked very much like a bid to sink a free and open election.
destroy, ruin, wreck, put an end to, be the ruin/ruination of, wreak havoc on, demolish, devastate, blast, blight, smash, shatter, dash, torpedo, scotch, sabotage
informal put the kibosh on, put the skids under, put paid to, banjax, do for, blow a hole in, nix
British informal scupper, dish, throw a spanner in the works of
North American informal throw a monkey wrench in the works of
Australian informal euchre, cruel
archaic bring to naught
1.5 [with object] Conceal, keep in the background, or ignore: they agreed to sink their differences
More example sentences
  • He has appealed to all doctors to sink their differences and come together in the larger interests of the doctors' community.
  • Where village welfare is concerned, these fishermen sink their differences and work together for the overall good of everyone.
  • The sheikh also hoped that the leaders will try to sink their differences for the best interest of the movement.
ignore, overlook, disregard, forget, put aside, set aside, put to one side, bury, consign to oblivion
2 [no object] Descend from a higher to a lower position; drop downwards: you can relax on the veranda as the sun sinks low
More example sentences
  • We were nearing one of Italy's most horrid swamps, and the ground beneath us sank freely underneath our feet.
  • It is that time of year when the sun sinks lower in the sky and thoughts of the culturally cognizant turn once again to the 17th Annual Vancouver Fringe Festival.
  • In the evenings we gathered on the porch as the sun sank low and watched the animals come in.
2.1(Of a person) lower oneself or drop down gently: she sank back on to her pillow
More example sentences
  • Exhausted, Ben sank into the chair and dropped his head against the bed.
  • The attack continued even when the man had sunk to his knees.
  • She struggled to get up but failed miserably as she sunk back down.
informal plonk oneself, plop oneself
North American informal plank oneself
2.2 [with adverbial of direction] Gradually penetrate into the surface of something: her feet sank into the thick pile of the carpet
More example sentences
  • Walking was tiresome as his feet sank into the surface by 4 or 5 inches every step.
  • As I walked in my feet sank into the thick cream carpet.
  • The waves slowly rolled over her feet as they sunk into the wet sand.
3 [no object] Gradually decrease or decline in value, amount, quality, or intensity: their output sank to a third of the pre-war figure
More example sentences
  • As the Protestant middle classes began to withdraw from Unionist politics, the quality of the candidates sank and the party stagnated.
  • Shares in high profile orange juice company Charlie's have sunk 33 percent in value in the past two days.
  • Conversely, falling values will see the same line sinking toward the 0 value.
fall, drop, become/get lower, become/get quieter, become/get softer
3.1Lapse or fall into a particular state or condition: he sank into a coma after suffering a brain haemorrhage
More example sentences
  • I lost my independence with my sight and sank into a deep depression for many years.
  • Crowds fell and Boothferry Park sank into disrepair.
  • Temporarily disoriented and without any immediate answers, on the way toward recovery, she sank into depression.
3.2Approach death: the doctor concluded that the lad was sinking fast
More example sentences
  • The physicians attending the President have announced that he is sinking fast.
deteriorate, decline, fade, fail, weaken, grow weak, flag, languish, degenerate, decay, waste away;
be at death's door, be on one's deathbed, be breathing one's last, be about to die, be approaching death, be slipping away, have one foot in the grave, be in extremis, become moribund
informal go downhill, be on one's last legs, be giving up the ghost
4 [with object] Insert beneath a surface: rails fixed in place with screws sunk below the surface of the wood
More example sentences
  • Gaining what we presume is the Alexandra Glacier, we rope up and simul-climb for the next three hours, occasionally sinking an ice screw.
  • This smooth and more experienced screwdriver had strengths mine did not, and it sunk the remaining loose screws deep into the wood.
  • A hammer might sink a screw, but a screwdriver would be more efficient and effective.
embed, insert;
drive, place, put down, plant, position
4.1 (sink something into) Cause something sharp to penetrate (a surface): the dog sank its teeth into her arm
More example sentences
  • The dog sinks his teeth into the young man's meatballs.
  • There's nothing your native Korean likes better than to sink his teeth into a dog, a reversal of the age-old trend.
  • He snaps at her with his sharp teeth and sinks them into her paw.
4.2 [with object and adverbial] Push or thrust (an object) into something: Kelly stood watching, her hands sunk deep into her pockets
More example sentences
  • According to the pole-vaulting textbook, a pole parallel to the ground is used which is then planted into a box sunk below ground level.
  • Ignoring her flailing limbs, and ignoring her desperate screams, Bryan sunk his hand into the bucket, which Christie had dropped only a minute earlier.
  • She sank her hands into her pockets.
4.3Excavate (a well) or bore (a shaft) vertically downwards: they planned to sink a gold mine in Oklahoma
More example sentences
  • In May 1884 C.W. Marsh was sinking a trial shaft hoping to find gold but only found indications of fossils.
  • Three shafts had been sunk, the deepest more than forty metres.
  • The shaft had been sunk an additional 2,518 feet since the start of the project and now had an inclined depth of 6,818 feet.
dig, excavate, bore, drill
4.4Hit (a ball) into a hole in golf or snooker: he sank the black into the green pocket to secure victory
More example sentences
  • Clarkie sank a ball and snookered Dave but this just made him play with more determination.
  • Gray got a snooker, then sank the last red, potted a great black and cleared up to win the frame 54-53 for 8-8.
  • What kind of professional pool player doesn't know that you have to sink the black ball last?
4.5(In golf) hit the ball into the hole with (a putt or other shot): he sank a four-foot birdie putt at the fifth hole
More example sentences
  • Your best chance for making birdies is to sink some long putts - and avoid the dreaded three-putt.
  • We got to the end of the first hole and Warren sank a putt for par.
  • Scott was in the same bunker and got out and sank a good putt for a birdie.
5 [with object] British informal Rapidly consume (an alcoholic drink): English players sinking a few post-match lagers
More example sentences
  • The men were moved to sink their drinks and shuffle to a safer distance.
  • They perform in each one, sink a few drinks, and move on.
  • The Barbarians skipper Ian Jones will have sunk a few beers last night as the incomparable Kiwi had just played his last game of rugby.
informal down, swill, knock back, polish off, dispose of, shift
British informal get outside of, neck, bevvy
North American informal chug, scarf down


Historically, the past tense of sink has been both sank and sunk ( the boat sank; the boat sunk) and the past participle has been both sunk and sunken ( the boat had already sunk; the boat had already sunken). In modern English the past is generally sank and the past participle is sunk, with the form sunken now surviving only as an adjective, as in a sunken garden or sunken cheeks.



a (or that) sinking feeling

An unpleasant feeling caused by the realization that something unpleasant or undesirable has happened or is about to happen: even to name the sum brought a sinking feeling to her stomach
More example sentences
  • She took a step toward Glenn, and with a sinking feeling, I realized she was abandoning me.
  • With a sinking feeling, Rue realized Claire had locked the door and it hadn't been her imagination when she heard the click.
  • With a sinking feeling, I realized that Angel had not yet told Wesley what Cordelia and I had just revealed.

sink or swim

Fail or succeed entirely by one’s own efforts: the bank does not leave its newcomers to sink or swim by themselves their businesses can sink or swim on the use of American technology
More example sentences
  • The members of this generation will sink or swim by their own efforts.
  • The state is optimistic that if people are faced with sink or swim, they will swim.
  • It was sink or swim when we bought Lacken House and Breda qualified as a Sommelier a few years after.

Phrasal verbs


sink in

(Of words or facts) be fully understood or realized: Peter read the letter twice before its meaning sank in
More example sentences
  • Maura was about to open her mouth to say more, when his words fully began to sink in.
  • The words his father spoke sank in and he realized how close he'd come to being murdered.
  • However, reality quickly sinks in as you realize that seconds wasted cost lives.
register, penetrate, be understood, be comprehended, be realized, be taken in, be grasped, become clear, get through

sink something in/into

Put money or energy into (something); invest something in: many investors sank their life savings into the company
More example sentences
  • Apparently the Asians have ‘straps’ so it's better to sink your money in an Uzi.
  • Ultimately he argues investors will sink their money into the US economy.
  • The pensioners will be lured to sink their savings into investments.
invest, put, venture, risk, plough



Example sentences
  • And, contrary to popular belief the Titanic is just as sinkable as any ship out there.
  • The sand piles are soft and sinkable.
  • When nobody's at home, the empty sinkable house collapses on its hydraulic ram, disappearing from sight into the ground.


Example sentences
  • It is unlikely that rise or sinkage of the island is a major factor.
  • No simple explanation can be given to the depths of my domestic sinkage in the last two weeks alone, as exemplified in the following words, spoken last night, to my beloved.
  • The defective constructions fail in no time because the water overflowing the wall carries the sand from underneath the wall while receding causing the sinkage of the whole structure.


Old English sincan, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch zinken and German sinken.

Words that rhyme with sink

bethink, blink, brink, cinque, clink, dink, drink, fink, Frink, gink, ink, interlink, jink, kink, link, mink, pink, plink, prink, rink, shrink, skink, slink, stink, sync, think, wink, zinc
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There are 2 main definitions of sink in English:

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sink 2

Pronunciation: /sɪŋk/


1A fixed basin with a water supply and outflow pipe: I stood at the kitchen sink [as modifier]: a sink unit with cupboard and drawers under
More example sentences
  • A utility room off the kitchen has its own sink unit along with built-in worktops and storage cupboards.
  • Caulk small cracks along baseboards, walls, cupboards, and around pipes, sinks, and bathtub fixtures.
  • The kitchen has a small sink and some storage units, but needs to be renovated.
2A pool or marsh in which a river’s water disappears by evaporation or percolation.
Example sentences
  • Once again, however, rumours of caves higher on the hillside and far off river sinks abound.
2.1 technical A body or process which acts to absorb or remove energy or a particular component from a system: a heat sink the oceans can act as a sink for CO2 The opposite of source.
More example sentences
  • We had a bloom a couple of years ago in Jervis Bay, NSW so we know that they can be very abundant and in the oceans they're actually the major sink for carbon dioxide.
  • The newly formed sprout may function as a sink for the low molecular weight products of starch degradation.
  • The marine environment provides a sink for many natural and anthropogenically derived chemicals.
3 short for sinkhole.
Example sentences
  • A sinkhole, also known as a sink, shake hole, swallow hole, swallet, doline or cenote, is a natural depression or hole in the surface topography
4 [usually as modifier] British A school or estate situated in a socially deprived area: the local sink school a sink estate
More example sentences
  • But in the sink estates and poor areas of Great Britain drugs like this nearly always lead onto harder ones and cause devastating effects little reported.
  • Schools in sink estates send more pupils into unemployment than to further or higher education.
  • It wants to bring in private firms to compete with sink state schools.


Middle English: from sink1.

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