Definition of decline in English:



  • 1no object (typically of something regarded as good) become smaller, fewer, or less; decrease.

    ‘the birth rate continued to decline’
    • ‘In Los Angeles, San Francisco and Alameda counties, voter participation declined by an aggregate of 12 percent.’
    • ‘Although tobacco consumption may be declining in the West, it continues to grow in emerging markets.’
    • ‘This directly contradicts Robinson's assertion that policing costs would decline after such a move.’
    • ‘Unemployment may be falling but remains high and the city population continues to decline but there is at last an unmistakeable air of optimism in the city and a belief that a revival is underway.’
    • ‘In the developed world, birth rates have been declining steadily for the past two decades.’
    • ‘Both national and community studies have shown that physical activity decreases after early adulthood and continues to decline after age 50.’
    • ‘The number of manufacturing jobs will continue to decline, but more service jobs will be created this year than during 2001.’
    • ‘The Yorkshire Museum of Farming, at Murton, near York, saw visitor numbers decline after animals had to be temporarily moved because of foot and mouth.’
    • ‘Housing prices in general continued to decline in April, with a drop of 7.1 per cent.’
    • ‘However, the singles market continued to decline, with a drop of nearly 30 per cent on overall sales.’
    • ‘Britain's current aid commitment is 0.31 percent of GNP and aid as a whole from the West has steadily declined over the last decade.’
    • ‘Although industry experienced modest gains, the region's population continued to decline throughout the last decade.’
    • ‘Brewers also found 2003 a bitter year as sales of beer and stout continued to decline from the peak levels of 1999 and 2000.’
    • ‘Although farm incomes continued to decline in 2002, the low cost of borrowing did much to save off the threat of closure for those struggling with a high level of debt.’
    • ‘Union membership is continuing to decline and has already dropped to its 1912 level.’
    • ‘A new report by the government's offshore pollution experts reveals that levels of sulphur pollution have hardly declined along the west coast of Britain over the past 15 years.’
    • ‘Tourism in the area declined sharply after 1992.’
    • ‘Crop yields will decline, and droughts will grow more severe.’
    • ‘However, these gender differences declined with age and actually reversed around age 40.’
    • ‘African lion populations have greatly declined in West Africa and in many African countries they are restricted to protected areas.’
    decrease, reduce, get smaller, grow smaller, lessen, get less, diminish, wane, dwindle, contract, shrink, fall off, taper off, tail off, peter out
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    1. 1.1 Diminish in strength or quality; deteriorate.
      ‘her health began to decline’
      • ‘If there was evidence of Monty's performance declining, his mental strength appeared to be holding up well.’
      • ‘But this has been at the expense of the working class and significant sections of the middle class whose living standards have stagnated and declined.’
      • ‘As in so many other parts of the former Soviet Union, health standards are declining.’
      • ‘It adds that many objectors do not live in the town, or have moved there since the ports declined and so have no knowledge of how Harwich used to prosper.’
      • ‘The street started to decline about five years ago when police had to move one innocent family out after they had been intimidated and criminal damage had been caused to their home.’
      • ‘We made people financially better off, but money isn't everything and in other ways, the quality of their lives declined.’
      • ‘And the education they get is declining in quality.’
      • ‘In recent years, his health began to decline but his serene and tranquil nature never deserted him.’
      • ‘One of the main factors influencing the outcome of IVF treatment is the age of the woman whose eggs are used, as the quality of the eggs declines as the woman gets older.’
      • ‘The quality was declining - with too many copycat programmes and not enough new, challenging TV.’
      • ‘According to Hollywood producers and directors, the quality of film has declined in the past 20 years.’
      • ‘Meanwhile, the city's infrastructure continues to decline.’
      • ‘Her health has declined since this struggle began.’
      • ‘Over the past 30 years, water quality has declined in rivers and lakes all over Ireland, with the excessive input of nutrients being established as the main cause of the decline.’
      • ‘Without it, York city centre would simply continue to decline, said John Steel QC, counsel for City of York Council.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Those who climb into their cars at six in the morning to commute to Dublin know full well that their quality of life has declined.’
      • ‘But he adds that English is declining less rapidly than some other languages, like Italian.’
      • ‘Child care in Sweden is considered to be of high quality, but due to budget cuts year after year the quality has declined.’
      • ‘As Rome's strength declined, the country again was exposed to invasion.’
      • ‘With declining renal function, doses of certain medications and antibiotics should be decreased to avoid toxic buildup.’
      • ‘The board's passive response to declining performance may stem from deference to a much-admired leader.’
      • ‘He had experienced more than one period of hospitalisation during the past year, and in recent months his health began to decline in a way that was of concern to family and friends.’
      • ‘If we let our public transport system, including our rail, continue to decline, then transport issues will become much more serious for those on low incomes, and even middle income.’
      • ‘Although these diseases seldom occurred in an acute form in Europe, standards of health declined.’
      • ‘The report said the quality of the educational provision and standards pupils achieve have declined significantly since its last inspection.’
      deteriorate, degenerate, decay, crumble, collapse, fail, fall, sink, slump, slip, slide, go downhill, worsen, get worse, go to rack and ruin, stagnate, atrophy, wither, weaken, fade, fade away, wane, ebb
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  • 2with object Politely refuse (an invitation or offer)

    ‘Caroline declined the coffee’
    with infinitive ‘the company declined to comment’
    • ‘Both Mr Myers and Ms Kennedy declined several invitations to comment on radio yesterday.’
    • ‘A waiter approached them with glasses of champagne but both of them declined politely.’
    • ‘She declined their offer, walked away and later passed the registration number of their car to police.’
    • ‘The company has declined our invitations to comment on the concerns raised by some of their customers.’
    • ‘We chatted for a while, and I politely declined his offer of a drink in the pub after work.’
    • ‘Toby sat beside Kate and offered her some of his candy bar, but she smiled and declined politely.’
    • ‘He declined my offer of coffee and left without as much as giving me a reason why he didn't want to stay.’
    • ‘Robert offers to walk her over, but she declines his invitation.’
    • ‘‘No thanks, I think I've had enough,’ I replied, declining the offer.’
    • ‘They made their way back to their cars, after declining many offers of cups of tea and cake.’
    • ‘We sat on the stoop until nearly two in the morning before the coroner's van came to pick up Eric; the cop stayed in the living room, respectfully declining offers of iced tea.’
    • ‘After declining his first invitation for a date, she thought, ‘he's going abroad anyway, so why don't I go out with him?’’
    • ‘If the council declines the offer, the land will be sold off.’
    • ‘Needless to say, I politely declined their invitations.’
    • ‘So as you can see I'll have to respectfully decline your invitation.’
    • ‘We'd even asked Tony if he'd like to move in with us, but he'd politely declined the offer.’
    • ‘A company spokesman declined an invitation to comment about the issue of car parking at the public house.’
    • ‘I politely declined her invitation and excused myself, lying and saying that I, also, had other plans.’
    • ‘The USI president said earlier studies had shown that 10% of students who declined a college offer did so because of financial concerns.’
    • ‘Once out of there, they walked around, just glancing around in the stores, occasionally, Jason would ask Sarah if she wanted anything but she politely declined the offer.’
    turn down, reject, brush aside, refuse, rebuff, spurn, disdain, look down one's nose at, repulse, repudiate, dismiss, forgo, deny oneself, pass up, refuse to take advantage of, turn one's back on
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  • 3no object (especially of the sun) move downwards.

    ‘the sun began to creep round to the west and to decline’
    • ‘We have designed the extension to capture the last scraps of sun as it declines behind the hill in the early evening.’
    go down, sink, descend, drop, subside
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    1. 3.1archaic Bend down; droop.
      ‘the wearisome creatures of the world declining to their rest’
      • ‘Declining from his sitting position…[he] stretched himself…among the daisies.’
  • 4with object (in the grammar of Latin, Greek, and certain other languages) state the forms of (a noun, pronoun, or adjective) corresponding to case, number, and gender.

    • ‘The girls would happily sit for hours on end in his study declining Greek nouns and reading political philosophy.’
    • ‘It's a long time since I had to decline amo, amas, amat in my school Latin classes.’
    • ‘Lyly declined English nouns as if they were Latin.’
    • ‘Reminder: you decline the verb to be as follows: I am, You are, He/she/it is, We are, You are, They are.’
    • ‘Those who declined it correctly went into Form 3.’


  • 1A gradual and continuous loss of strength, numbers, quality, or value.

    ‘a serious decline in bird numbers’
    mass noun ‘a civilization in decline’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘If the housing market goes into decline we may, if we remain determined to move, be forced to reduced our asking price.’
    • ‘History showed the British Empire's decline and fall, unable to compete with the strain of global war and the rise of political and economic power elsewhere.’
    • ‘The latest figures show a steady decline in the number of youngsters vaccinated from nearly 90 per cent in 1997.’
    • ‘A drop in fundraising will produce a further decline in educational quality.’
    • ‘Similarly, it argues that businesses surveyed place it only fifth on a list of factors impacting trade, beneath wider economic factors, the decline in tourism and seasonal influences.’
    • ‘Dan, a mechanic for 16 years at Northwest, commented on the decline in safety conditions at the airline, before and during the strike.’
    • ‘With the collapse of the Venetian Republic in 1797, the Murano glassworks fell into decline.’
    • ‘He attributes most of these losses to a decline in high yield business travel.’
    • ‘Guinness drinking is on the decline in Ireland, with volume sales falling by an annual rate of about 3 per cent over the past four years.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Amateur boxing is on the decline in Europe and America.’
    • ‘But no one mentioned the impact of drug abuse or drug treatment on the decline in sexual interest and potency.’
    • ‘The two decades before 1995 had been a period of almost continuous economic decline in sub-Saharan Africa.’
    • ‘Unfortunately, populations of both birds have been in decline for decades.’
    • ‘By the first century BC, Greece had fallen into decline, lost its outlying territories, and been assimilated into the Roman Empire.’
    • ‘Suburbanization and a decline in manufacturing caused economic problems and population losses through much of the twentieth century.’
    • ‘A survey of UK clinics carried out by the authority earlier this year found that 62% of clinics predicted that the move would lead to a further decline in donations.’
    • ‘Hawks were clearly on the decline in the eastern United States, and their persecution seemed to be increasing.’
    • ‘They told how the firm had suffered significant losses following a decline in new business over recent months and that there was little sign of improvement in the future.’
    reduction, decrease, downturn, downswing, lowering, devaluation, depreciation, lessening, diminishing, diminution, slackening, waning, dwindling, fading, ebb, falling off, abatement, drop, slump, plunge, tumble
    deterioration, degeneration, degradation, shrinkage, shrinking, withering, atrophy, weakening, enfeeblement, fall, failure, death, decay, decaying
    waning, declining, on the decline, decaying, crumbling, collapsing, atrophying, failing, disappearing, dying, moribund, past its prime, obsolescent
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1archaic The sun's gradual setting.
      ‘this Evening from the Sun's decline arriv'd’
    2. 1.2archaic A disease in which the bodily strength gradually fails, especially tuberculosis.
      ‘he died at his brother's of a deep decline’


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