Definition of thin in English:



  • 1With opposite surfaces or sides that are close or relatively close together.

    ‘thin slices of bread’
    ‘a thin line of paint’
    • ‘One particular 20 yard stretch of rail is held down on one side by just one thin clip; the rest are either missing or so bent that they are not securing the rail at all.’
    • ‘The keypad lights up a shaded blue, and the buttons are thin and stylish.’
    • ‘To serve, place the salmon skin side down and slice horizontally into thin pieces.’
    • ‘It was a simple dish made up of thin slices of perfectly cooked beef and onions, served with a generous amount of a light gravy with hints of Asian flavourings.’
    • ‘Only a thin layer at the surface thaws during summer.’
    • ‘It lifts a thin surface layer of the cornea away from underlying layers.’
    • ‘He shook his head and pressed his lips together in a thin line.’
    • ‘Another method of treatment is acupuncture, which involves the insertion of thin needles into the body to regulate and redirect the flow of qi.’
    • ‘The stations were separated by thin partitions and the side walls were painted drywall.’
    • ‘The key lime was pleasantly tart, on a nice thin crust.’
    • ‘These traditional Italian style pizzas are thin and crisp and loaded with delicate, subtle flavours and topped with mozzarella cheese.’
    • ‘Homemade decorations using herbs such as cinnamon sticks and whole star anise can be strung together with thin ribbon or raffia and hung from the branches for a different look.’
    • ‘Creeping plants such as the ivy may be joined together by thin wire.’
    • ‘He pulled out a thin strip of metal and put it into the lock.’
    • ‘Generally, the cylinder and the cylinder head bolt together with a thin gasket pressed between them to ensure a good seal.’
    • ‘Once you have bunched four or five sprigs together, wind thin wire around the cluster, leaving a one-inch spike at the bottom.’
    • ‘The pudding is made by lining a buttered basin with fairly thin slices of good bread cut to fit exactly.’
    • ‘There is a relatively thin crust of ice, but most of the water is liquid.’
    • ‘Polycarbonate is a tough, transparent thermoplastic that's used to make thin, light lenses.’
    • ‘The thin bark had been stripped all the way around for two to three feet.’
    narrow, fine, pencil-thin, thread-like, attenuated
    wafer-thin, paper-thin, papery
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    1. 1.1(of a garment or other knitted or woven item) made of light material.
      ‘his thin jacket’
      • ‘He was smiling openly at her, wearing just a thin shirt and trousers.’
      • ‘Only thin sleeves split down the inside covered her arms.’
      • ‘The woman was only wearing a thin jumper and was shivering, so the girls braved the cold wind and Danika gave her coat to the woman, while Jody donated her scarf.’
      • ‘The ground was very wet and I felt it almost at once through my thin boots.’
      • ‘Will ran towards the outer courtyard, Sibyl in close pursuit, noticeably slowed down by her thin shoes and bulky dress.’
      • ‘The neckline curved down low, and was layered under a thin see-through material that shimmered.’
      • ‘Wear a warm hat to guard against heat loss from your head and if your hands are susceptible to the cold then wear some thin gloves.’
      • ‘His muscular chest was well defined through the thin shirt he wore.’
      • ‘Wear layers of thin clothes rather than one thick layer - the warmth from your body will get trapped between the layers, keeping you warmer.’
      • ‘And the thin jacket she'd worn did nothing to ward off the distinct chill that heralded coming rain.’
      • ‘A thin, translucent organza material partially hid the silver tasseled white sheets from view.’
      • ‘Spraying repellent on clothing can be useful, as mosquitoes can bite through thin fabrics.’
      • ‘The weather was fairly warm for Spring, so the boys were fine in their thin clothing.’
      • ‘She wore a thin shirt, and long skirt, with high heels to make her seem taller.’
      • ‘The dress was long, but the thin material was light and loose, making it easy to walk and move.’
      • ‘Lining one side were six feather pillows and covering the floor was a thin rug on which sat a bottle of wine and two glasses.’
      • ‘The cigarette burned a hole in Adam's thin sleeve and stung his arm.’
      • ‘Her veil was thin, and woven and accommodated little sprinkles everywhere.’
      • ‘Her own shoes were so thin, and her steps so graceful that they hardly made a sound.’
      • ‘She began to feel her thin shoes break under her, and the muscles in her thighs started to burn with fury from the intense climb.’
      lightweight, light, fine, delicate, floaty, flimsy, diaphanous, gossamer, insubstantial
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    2. 1.2(of a garment or fabric) having become less thick as a result of wear.
      ‘our clothing was getting thin’
      • ‘His too-big jeans were ripped in the knees, and his tee shirt was worn into a thin fabric.’
      • ‘They both were wearing very thin shirts with a ton of holes in them.’
      worn, well worn, old, worn out, holey, moth-eaten, mangy, ragged, frayed, tattered, battered
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    3. 1.3(of writing or printing) consisting of narrow lines.
      ‘tall, thin lettering’
      • ‘In thin gilt lettering on the creamy white of the menu, how little those words conveyed to the bulk of the imperfectly educated diners.’
      • ‘It reminds me of the old digital watch I had as a kid, with thin black lettering on the grey screen.’
      narrow, fine, pencil-thin, thread-like, attenuated
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  • 2Having little, or too little, flesh or fat on the body.

    ‘a thin, gawky adolescent’
    • ‘I almost felt sorry for Nicola, who's grown painfully thin.’
    • ‘It was a woman, tall and thin, smiling and leaning against a fence.’
    • ‘She is skeletally thin, with hollow, cadaverous eyes and cheeks.’
    • ‘I see a thin, bearded guy wearing a thick turtleneck sweater, spooning coffee into a mug in his small flat, scowling at the newspaper.’
    • ‘Lily, on the other hand, was dark headed, short but thin, and relatively quiet.’
    • ‘So what motivated her to drop from a healthy 130 pounds to being so thin that today she wears a pair of flannel pants under her size one jeans just to hold them up?’
    • ‘Rakishly thin, he wore tattered cords that rode half way up his skeleton legs.’
    • ‘She looked very thin, weak and pale and was shivering.’
    • ‘He was thin and weak, and his voice was almost inaudible despite the relative quiet of a teaching hospital side room.’
    • ‘His baggy black clothing made him look thin and weak.’
    • ‘And the public wonders why people in the fashion industry are so thin!’
    • ‘They were an oddly diverse group, one man was short and heavy, two others were tall and muscular, and the other two looked rather thin and weak.’
    • ‘If you're naturally thin, you might fill out a little more after puberty, but then again, you might not.’
    • ‘The director is tall and thin with good posture, and he appears neither old nor young.’
    • ‘He was already walking a fine line between thin and skeletal when we met, but now he just looks ill.’
    • ‘He was thin but far from weak and stood about six-foot tall.’
    • ‘If you could point to a line of fat or thin people stretching back generations, I'd accept that, but in general the number of people whose body shape is determined by their genes is very small.’
    • ‘He got thin and weak and seeing my father like this was not the easiest of experiences in my life.’
    • ‘His face was just a little pale and he was thin; nowhere close to looking starved, but he was thinner than he should be.’
    • ‘He is so thin and reedy you worried for his balance when the wind picked up, but he moves with soft, sumptuous delicacy.’
    slim, lean, slender, rangy, willowy, svelte, sylphlike, spare, slight
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  • 3Having few parts or members relative to the area covered or filled; sparse.

    ‘a depressingly thin crowd’
    ‘his hair was going thin’
    • ‘Their fur was thickest in patches on the head and groin, elsewhere it was thin and limited.’
    • ‘There seems to have been at most a thin trickle of men directly from northern France into Scotland, and there is little evidence of migration directly from the Continent to Ireland.’
    • ‘The forest started to looked thinner, and he thought he'd found something.’
    • ‘Others argue that allied troops are too thin on the ground to make any difference.’
    sparse, scanty, wispy, thinning
    meagre, paltry, poor, inadequate, insufficient, sparse, scanty, scattered
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    1. 3.1(of the air or a substance in the air) not dense.
      ‘the thin cold air of the mountains’
      • ‘In addition, she suffers from asthma, which makes mountain races, where the air is thin, particularly difficult.’
      • ‘The route itself can be slick and frozen over, and exhausted runners may be prone to hypothermia in the thin, cold air.’
      • ‘You are about 27,000 feet up in the Earth's atmosphere, the air is thin, you are using an oxygen tank.’
      • ‘Its average elevation is 13,000 feet, making the air rather thin and cold, and ten peaks top 20,000 feet.’
      • ‘Therefore, the air is thin, dry and your body receives about 50 percent less oxygen than at sea level.’
      • ‘Winding down My head ached, and my throat was dry from the dehydrating effects of flying, and too much cold, thin air.’
      • ‘A hole has been torn in the thin veil of ozone just above the Antarctic.’
      • ‘She has trained at Flagstaff in Arizona, again using the thin air at high altitude to stretch her limbs and clear her mind.’
      • ‘The air is so thin it is incapable of supporting life.’
      • ‘So some astronomers are quite keen to set up their instruments in Antarctica to take advantage of the thin, cold air.’
      • ‘The day dawned gray and chill, a thin mist turning Baghdad's usually dry air damp.’
      • ‘A thin veil of fog had rolled in off the bay, obscuring his view and coating the area in a pale gray-white mist.’
      • ‘They hope to complete the trek in five days, but it presents problems because they will be walking at altitudes of up to 14,000 ft, where the air is thin.’
      • ‘The morning started fine, with a little high thin cloud, but still and very cold.’
      • ‘Last weeks's scorching heat in Jakarta happened because the humidity in Jakarta was low and the clouds were thin, so the heat of the sun was unobstructed.’
      • ‘She said she had recently hiked for four days in the thin air of Yosemite National Park.’
      • ‘The air is thin up there, and only the most able should attempt to scale those peaks.’
      • ‘Such journeying to cold, high places where the air is thin requires lengthy preparation for the most severe conditions conceivable.’
      • ‘He wrote about what it was like to live and die where the air is so thin that every breath is a triumph.’
      • ‘The air was thin up here, but he was used to going up high and knew how to control his breathing so he didn't get lightheaded.’
    2. 3.2Mountaineering Denoting a route on which the holds are small or scarce.
      • ‘This is a shoe that excels when face climbing or thin crack climbing.’
      • ‘There, a series of thin moves leads you up the remainder of the corner, then you end up facing a traverse to the right under a huge, overhanging roof.’
      • ‘Fifteen feet of traversing to reach a thin finger crack lay ahead.’
      • ‘Follow the thin right fork through to easier ground and the top.’
      • ‘There is a bolt right before a thin little crux move.’
  • 4(of a liquid substance) not containing much solid; flowing freely.

    ‘thin soup’
    • ‘He invited the wealthy man to dinner, which consisted of old hard bread and thin vegetable soup.’
    • ‘If there is only a slight excess of sugar over the normal saturation level, the supercooled liquid is a thin syrup.’
    • ‘In a dark corner, two fighters are dozing while a thin potato and lamb soup simmers on the stove.’
    • ‘The béarnaise sauce was now so thin and runny it had the consistency of water and didn't taste good at all.’
    • ‘In any case, the fluid is clear and thin but quite strong, and isn't easily rubbed into skin.’
    • ‘Twice a day inmates receive two pieces of dry bread and weak tea; at midday they are handed a portion of soup or thin gruel.’
    • ‘Regardless of its ethnic origins, it will be a thin, brown liquid, made from fermented fish and salt.’
    • ‘If you are one of those frailer and more malnourished types, you should eat light nourishing soups or thin rice porridge.’
    • ‘He painted in thin oils with a bright palette in a freely painted technique which allowed the white of the exposed canvas to give added luminosity.’
    • ‘If the liquid is too thin for a gravy, just put it in a pan on the stovetop and boil it down to reduce to a nice consistency.’
    • ‘At the moment the boys exist on an unchanging and meagre diet of bread and milk for breakfast, potato and rice for lunch and thin vegetable soup for dinner.’
    • ‘They can vary in size and contain liquid that is thin and watery, or thicker and paste-like.’
    • ‘Yet, there really was nothing unusual about the soup, merely a thin beef broth with onions.’
    • ‘The surrounding tissue swells up and thin pus leaks through narrow passages called sinuses onto the surface of the skin.’
    • ‘In several test tubes and bottles were thin, multicolored liquids.’
    • ‘If no frank perforation is seen, thin barium liquid should be used to identify lacerations that may otherwise be missed.’
    • ‘Rarely, a patient may be limited to foods with a pudding consistency if thin and thick liquids are freely aspirated.’
    • ‘The mild tartness of the thin liquid cut through the dust and diesel fumes.’
    • ‘A thin cornmeal soup was frequently made, to which pieces of meat, fish, or other foods could be added.’
    • ‘Do not swallow anything until it is a thin liquid pulp.’
    watery, watered down, weak, dilute, diluted, thinned down
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  • 5Lacking substance or quality; weak or inadequate.

    ‘the evidence is rather thin’
    • ‘Mr. Bennett also thinks that I run a pretty thin political blog and shouldn't have been nominated in that category.’
    • ‘Could there be a connection between fat pay for directors and thin returns for shareholders?’
    • ‘He was their speed receiver, and his departure leaves them thin at the position.’
    • ‘If formal sources of law, and the law they produce, have become too thin and weak for the tasks they should accomplish, supportive normativity may be found in tradition.’
    • ‘It's weak, it's thin, it's insipid and it's desperately unsatisfying.’
    • ‘Further investment in players may improve their weak defence or thin squad, but would disrupt the team spirit which has thus far carried them to the heady heights of fourth.’
    • ‘Such an attitude is a thin cover for right-wing politics.’
    • ‘It sounds a bit thin compared to finding the cure for diseases or inventing those dimples that make golf balls fly farther, but I am sure it must have some value.’
    • ‘The supplements on Disc Two are surprisingly thin and lacking in substance.’
    • ‘My only gripe is that, for the price, it's a little on the thin side.’
    • ‘This vital missing ingredient leaves the characterisation grossly underdeveloped, and the plot, somewhat on the thin side.’
    • ‘But as a reason to renounce my citizenship, it's a thin one.’
    • ‘The focus on each is spread a bit too thin, so the connections between them are never clear enough.’
    • ‘He also tried to dispel the belief that the government had a thin legislative agenda.’
    • ‘His confessions of guilt are merely a thin cover for re-emergent desires within the German ruling class.’
    • ‘I found the explanation for the campaign material disappointing and a bit thin.’
    • ‘The film is really just a series of slickly filmed action sequences dangling off a thin plot and held together by the force of Jackson's charisma.’
    • ‘Densely plotted and vividly acted, the film's abundance of ideas and intrigue wind up stretched perilously thin.’
    • ‘This form, music video, paired popular songs with series of incoherent images held together by thin narratives.’
    • ‘The plotline is relatively thin, relying on the quantity of ghosts and potential gruesome deaths to keep the story going until its climatic end.’
    insubstantial, flimsy, slight, feeble, lame, poor, weak, shallow, tenuous, threadbare, inadequate, insufficient
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    1. 5.1(of a sound) faint and high-pitched.
      ‘a thin, reedy little voice’
      • ‘The audio isn't quite as good; it sounds thin overall, but you can still easily understand all of the dialogue.’
      • ‘The pictures on the office wall were all of autumn landscapes, the dry leaves matched by the thin, reedy tones of the ageing former revolutionary behind the desk.’
      • ‘Her voice was thin and reedy; her throat clicked drily as she tried to swallow.’
      • ‘The string tone is thin, but the sound has an attractive warmth overall.’
      • ‘The sound they made was thin and their dance routines were basic.’
      • ‘The vocals are weak and thin, more whiny than appealing.’
      • ‘While dialog is always audible, the sound is thin and harsh, especially during the music.’
      • ‘His terror threatened to overwhelm him as he dived for the handlebars with a thin squeak escaping his lips.’
      • ‘The audio is thin and pinched, with a definite canned quality.’
      • ‘His laughter was thin, though, lacking the warmth of a real man's laughter.’
      • ‘The previous CDs had a thin string sound and the bass was simply not there.’
      • ‘Then you hear them reading their poems and instead of rich and resonant voice full of authority and confidence there's a thin, reedy croak.’
      • ‘Technically the picture is often subpar, and the sound is rather thin and tinny.’
      • ‘His muse, whilst sounding thin and mean vocally, comes to life through her guitar.’
      • ‘But they were uncomfortable and sounded thin and tinny to my ear.’
      • ‘If her top notes sound thin, she's matched at the other end of the scale by Paul, whose bottom notes almost disappear.’
      • ‘It's sort of reedy and thin and breathless; she always sounds a bit too worried and self-conscious to really lose herself in the music.’
      • ‘Behind that sound, hidden in it, was the thin, faint sound of a woman's distant scream, coming from inside the building.’
      • ‘Did it matter if the wee soul's voice sounded a bit thin in the recording studio, so a professional session singer was brought in to beef it up a bit?’
      • ‘Her once powerful wail was gone, and in its place was a thin weeping sound that broke her mother's heart whenever she heard it.’
      weak, faint, feeble, small, soft, low
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    2. 5.2(of a smile) weak and forced.
      • ‘Gwen nodded weakly and Hannah just gave her a small thin smile.’
      • ‘Emerging from the sitting room into the hall, her smile is thin and set and she disappears immediately.’
      • ‘The invitation, offered with a thin smile, comes out of the blue.’
      • ‘She gave me a thin smile and turned back to whatever she was doing.’
      • ‘He sat across from her, studying her with that thin smile.’
      • ‘Baron stifled his angry response and forced a thin smile instead.’
      • ‘She looked paler than ever, but there was a thin smile on her face.’
      • ‘I especially don't want to be welcomed and have to respond to friendly questions with a thin, watery smile and inane small talk.’
      • ‘Troy's thin smile was cautious, guarded, like he was afraid of something.’
      • ‘He gave me a brief, thin smile that seemed more for my benefit than his.’
      • ‘I nod and manage a thin smile that offers her some comfort.’
      • ‘Dylan just stares blankly into the camera with a thin smile on his face.’
      • ‘The affection in his voice made her feel a bit better and she settled back into her seat with a thin smile.’
      • ‘She gives him a thin smile and the ticket he'd given her earlier.’
      • ‘‘It was quite a nasty fall,’ he explained, a thin smile forming on his lips in recognition of the understatement.’
      • ‘A thin smile crossed her face as she turned back to the console.’
      • ‘One by one, in order of seniority, employees' names were called and they trooped forward to receive a thin smile and an envelope from Eloise.’
      • ‘Anthony and I stared at him and smiled thin smiles, desperate not to catch each other's eye.’
      • ‘I stood over him, arms crossed, a thin smile on my face.’
      • ‘Isabella glanced at Audrey out of the corner of her eye, masking her surprise with a thin smile.’


  • have a thin time

    • informal Have an unpleasant period or experience.

      • ‘So we are having a thin time of it, and we'll have to tighten our belt buckles.’
      • ‘But cheerleaders for pluralism have a thin time of it these days.’
      • ‘Vegetarians can have a thin time in this beefy country, though Indian and Italian restaurants are some help, and cheese and eggs are always available.’
      • ‘The men in green have had a thin time of it recently with injuries and absences stretching the squad to its limit.’
      • ‘The art market is generally having a thin time, but is the same true at the very top end?’
      • ‘As the twentieth century draws to a close, connoisseurs of colonial nostalgia are, unsurprisingly, having a thin time of it.’
      • ‘As elsewhere in the region, racing had a thin time during World War I and took time to recover.’
      • ‘Our orchestras are having a thin time of it, and there is genuine concern as to how many orchestras will exist ten years from now.’
      • ‘Many Mexican-Americans in the border states were heavily Indian in ancestry, so Mexicans in the United States had a thin time of it.’
      • ‘Actually the Conservatives had a thin time of it in the 19th century, a time when the electorate was restricted by property and house holding qualifications, the party won few elections and, except at the turn of the century, had few extended periods in office.’
  • on thin ice

    • In a precarious or risky situation.

      ‘you're skating on thin ice’
      • ‘When you deal with this subject you skate on thin ice.’
      • ‘His reign has been very controversial and he is on thin ice already.’
      • ‘Lea knew for some time she was on thin ice but that didn't seem to stop her.’
      • ‘The agencies are putting GM and Ford on thin ice with ratings just barely above junk bond status.’
      • ‘Developers who want to build 71 houses on the site of Altrincham Ice Rink could be skating on thin ice.’
      • ‘He is on thin ice here, but he is smart enough, and gutsy enough to get away with it.’
      • ‘Like the rest of the field, Woods was swinging on thin ice, knowing that the slightest false step or slice of misfortune would draw blood.’
      • ‘The young bachelor was treading on thin ice after showing up two and a half hours late.’
      • ‘As far as her film career goes, Courtney is skating on thin ice.’
      • ‘I'm already treading on thin ice because of my out-spokenness.’
  • thin air

    • Used to refer to the state of being invisible or non-existent.

      ‘she just vanished into thin air’
      • ‘I don't think I can conjure up the kind of detail required out of thin air.’
      • ‘In any event, it was a bravura performance, a long extempore speech, apparently pulled out of thin air.’
      • ‘The museum's alarm went off, but by the time police arrived the culprits had disappeared into thin air.’
      • ‘None of this stuff is new, and who's to say it won't all vanish into thin air?’
      • ‘Teaching unions have also joined force to ask how millions of pounds have seemingly disappeared into thin air.’
      • ‘Immorality prevails as sympathy for the unfortunate diminishes into thin air.’
      • ‘They all thought I was so smart but little did they know that I pulled that answer from thin air.’
      • ‘He disappears, as if into thin air, leaving me clutching his money in one hand and mine in the other.’
      • ‘Surely all these people didn't just pluck these things out of thin air and just put them down on paper!’
      • ‘We've seen in the collapse of many technology companies that figures were plucked out of thin air.’
  • the thin blue line

    • informal Used to refer to the police, typically in the context of maintaining order during unrest.

      ‘the thin blue line holds the frontier between chaos and civilian life, between crime and the American dream’
      • ‘Once the thin blue line defending a society's fundamental values, the police have now grotesquely turned into a weapon against them.’
      • ‘The repainted patrol cars and bright yellow jackets may seem gimmicky to those who favour the traditional image of the thin blue line.’
      • ‘Jack, who retired last Friday from Leigh's community policing team, has been treading the thin blue line since 1974.’
      • ‘Ex-policemen across Bury are being asked to strengthen the thin blue line.’
      • ‘Her description of the thin blue line that stands between the public and chaos looks different from the one portrayed on television.’
      • ‘People living in rural areas need to take precautions and taking care also helps the police - the thin blue line in the countryside.’
      • ‘His self-assurance, generated by his exalted status within the department, is complete; it's what guides him during his regular sorties across the thin blue line, from order into chaos and back again.’
      • ‘But the thin blue line will be stretched thinner than ever - at least 2,000 officers will cover the main rally in July, more than one in eight of all the officers in Scotland.’
      • ‘Look at the tough new border controls and the co-ordination of European police forces manning the thin blue line against the horde.’
      • ‘Every weekend, a group of twenty-somethings turn their backs on Swindon's clubs, pubs and bars to help boost the thin blue line.’
  • thin end of the wedge

  • thin on the ground

  • thin on top

    • informal Balding.

      ‘Eddie noticed he was getting thin on top’
      • ‘He was described as 5ft 7in tall, in his 40s or 50s, with light-coloured hair, which was thin on top.’
      • ‘I bought him a toupee once because he is a bit thin on top.’
      • ‘He's going very thin on top, though, which must be worrying.’
      • ‘Boys, you may have noticed I'm no longer going a bit thin on top.’
      • ‘It has been said that a large proportion of body heat lost is through the head and, if you are as thin on top as I am, it is not difficult to believe, so wear a hat.’
      • ‘And have you noticed that Ed is looking a little thin on top?’
      • ‘I don't care that he's going thin on top or thick in the middle.’
      • ‘She said particular attention should be paid to shoulders and the backs of feet - the most sensitive areas - while men going thin on top should always wear a hat or use sunblock.’
      • ‘He was little, probably a little bit shorter then Adrian and he was a little thin on top.’
      • ‘By the way, isn't Tommy going really thin on top?’
      losing one's hair, thinning, with receding hair
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Old English thynne, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch dun and German dünn, from an Indo-European root shared by Latin tenuis.