Definition of decline in English:

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Pronunciation: /dəˈklīn/


1 [no object] (Typically of something regarded as good) become smaller, fewer, or less; decrease: the birth rate continued to decline
More example sentences
  • However, the singles market continued to decline, with a drop of nearly 30 per cent on overall sales.
  • Both national and community studies have shown that physical activity decreases after early adulthood and continues to decline after age 50.
  • Housing prices in general continued to decline in April, with a drop of 7.1 per cent.
decrease, reduce, lessen, diminish, dwindle, contract, shrink, fall off, tail off;
drop, fall, go down, slump, plummet
informal nosedive, take a header, crash
1.1Diminish in strength or quality; deteriorate: her health began to decline (as adjective declining) the victims of declining educational standards
More example sentences
  • So the title of your book is interesting because we hear a lot about educational standards declining because of fewer students excelling in sciences and math.
  • The report said the quality of the educational provision and standards pupils achieve have declined significantly since its last inspection.
  • And the education they get is declining in quality.
deteriorate, degenerate, decay, crumble, collapse, slump, slip, slide, go downhill, worsen;
weaken, wane, ebb
informal go to pot, go to the dogs, go into/down the toilet
2 [with object] Politely refuse (an invitation or offer): Caroline declined the coffee
More example sentences
  • Needless to say, I politely declined their invitations.
  • He declined my offer of coffee and left without as much as giving me a reason why he didn't want to stay.
  • We chatted for a while, and I politely declined his offer of a drink in the pub after work.
turn down, reject, brush aside, refuse, rebuff, spurn, repulse, dismiss;
forgo, deny oneself, pass up;
abstain from, say no to
informal give the thumbs down to, give something a miss
2.1 [with infinitive] Politely refuse to do something: the company declined to comment
More example sentences
  • When I called your Milwaukee headquarters, your top spokesperson politely declined to comment.
  • He politely declined to discuss who their advertisers are and referred me on to corporate headquarters.
  • Via his secretary, Justice Holmes politely declined to take any role in the controversy.
3 [no object] (Especially of the sun) move downward.
Example sentences
  • We have designed the extension to capture the last scraps of sun as it declines behind the hill in the early evening.
3.1 archaic Bend down; droop.
Example sentences
  • Declining from his sitting position…[he] stretched himself…among the daisies.
4 [with object] (In the grammar of Latin, Greek, and certain other languages) state the forms of (a noun, pronoun, or adjective) corresponding to cases, number, and gender.
Example sentences
  • Lyly declined English nouns as if they were Latin.
  • The girls would happily sit for hours on end in his study declining Greek nouns and reading political philosophy.
  • Reminder: you decline the verb to be as follows: I am, You are, He/she/it is, We are, You are, They are.


[in singular]
1A gradual and continuous loss of strength, numbers, quality, or value: a serious decline in bird numbers a civilization in decline
More example sentences
  • The production side of the economy has seen a continuous decline in British manufacturing, with a loss of 1 million jobs since Labour came to power in 1997.
  • A few workshops produce domestic cloth such as woolen blankets and covers, but this type of weaving is on the decline in the face of cheap, factory-made goods.
  • Amateur boxing is on the decline in Europe and America.
reduction, decrease, downturn, downswing, downtrend, devaluation, depreciation, diminution, ebb, drop, slump, plunge
informal nosedive, crash
deterioration, degeneration, degradation, shrinkage;
death, decay
declining, decaying, crumbling, collapsing, failing;
disappearing, dying, moribund
informal on its last legs, on the way out
1.1 archaic The gradual setting of the sun.
1.2 archaic Any disease in which bodily strength gradually fails, especially tuberculosis.



Pronunciation: /dəˈklīnəb(ə)l/
Example sentences
  • When "eka" is used in the sense of ‘some, certain, incomparable’, it is declinable in the three genders and in both numbers.
  • Year after year, his explanations of connecting vowels and genitives of nouns and declinable adjectives fell on deaf ears.
  • The gender agreement rule is that, in the singular, the declinable premodifiers (determiners and adjectives) should agree with the gender of the head noun.


Example sentences
  • Petroleum and its textile businesses were the only two decliners in the first half, as textile earnings dropped 44 per cent to HK $46 million.
  • On the New York Stock Exchange, decliners beat advancers by two to one as 455 million shares traded.
  • In Jakarta, the stock index dropped by 0.7 percent; the biggest decliner in the region.


Late Middle English: from Old French decliner, from Latin declinare 'bend down, turn aside', from de- 'down' + clinare 'to bend'.

  • lean from Old English:

    The two words spelled lean are of different origins. Both are Old English, but the one meaning ‘be in a sloping position’ shares a root of Latin clinare, as in incline (Middle English); decline (Late Middle English); and recline (Late Middle English). We sometimes talk of lean years or a lean period. This expression comes from the story of Joseph in the Bible. He successfully interprets Pharaoh's disturbing dream, in which seven plump, healthy cattle come out of the river and begin to feed. Seven lean, malnourished animals then leave the river and proceed to eat the plump cattle. According to Joseph's interpretation, there will be seven years of plenty in Egypt followed by seven lean years. Pharaoh, impressed by Joseph, appoints him vice-regent to prepare the country for the ordeal of the seven lean years. A person who is lean and hungry is active and alert-looking. The phrase comes from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar—‘Yond' Cassius has a lean and hungry look.’

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: de·cline

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