Definition of ebb in English:



  • The movement of the tide out to sea.

    ‘the tide was on the ebb’
    and → flow
    [as modifier] ‘the ebb tide’
    • ‘These observations suggest that some individuals occasionally stray off of the marsh surface, or are inadvertently transported to the lower intertidal zone during ebb tides.’
    • ‘The narrow road follows the edge of the fjord-like Loch Long which can run like a river, especially at its narrowest point when filling up on the flow tide or draining on the ebb.’
    • ‘We passed the immense coastal inlet where at ebb tide dead rats and rusting machinery are visible.’
    • ‘This weekend the beach will be sporting kites that will carry their surfing occupants at speeds of 80 to 100 miles an hour along the shallows of the ebb tide.’
    • ‘Hairy crabs would be attracted by the light and crawl upwards during the flood tide, where they would be trapped after the ebb.’
    • ‘If you must go out on to the sands go out when the tide is on the ebb so that if you do get stuck we have a chance of getting you out.’
    • ‘The hardest thing about this lock is if you have a boat coming in on the ebb tide.’
    • ‘Far from the island we waded through a waist deep channel of fast flowing ebb tide, then climbed onto a hard bank of rippled sand.’
    • ‘If the ground you are casting onto has areas of broken rocky ground or shallow reef, then fish will feed through the ebb tide as well.’
    • ‘Feeding activity is regulated by the ebb tide when fresh seaweed is most readily available.’
    • ‘Three hours before high water is a good time; dive on the ebb and there is a good chance of being swept out round the headland.’
    • ‘This may the basis for many species of coral fishes refuging in reef structures at the height of the ebb and flood, and swimming and feeding around slack tides.’
    • ‘Visibility is better at high tide, as the ebb tide brings down silt from the river.’
    • ‘The tide was on the ebb, the sand was firm and wide.’
    • ‘At Nigali Passage this kind of information is vital; the clear ocean water flows in the pass on the ebb, while most of the lagoon is emptying through the northern passes.’
    • ‘Also note that I have referred to eastward and westward currents rather than flood and ebb tides.’
    • ‘The school appeared to swim upstream with the rising tide each day and went back out to sea on the ebb tide where they could be seen about a mile off the land.’
    • ‘When the tide is on the ebb it falls back into isolated channels.’
    • ‘This makes it dangerous in onshore winds between east and south, particularly during ebb tides.’
    receding, going out, flowing back, retreat, retreating, drawing back, abating, subsiding
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  • 1(of tidewater) move away from the land; recede.

    ‘the tide began to ebb’
    Compare with flow
    • ‘When the high water ebbs and the water in the lagoon and the sea reach the same level, the gates are filled once again with water until they return to their original position.’
    • ‘When the tide ebbs, the women rush to the beach to dig for clams.’
    • ‘The tide ebbs and flows, the winds and rains wear them away.’
    • ‘The wind is blowing fresh out of the east, funneling up the river, and the tide is ebbing hard, setting up a steep chop.’
    • ‘The tide that had risen some time ago, the house had sunk in it, but now the water had ebbed and the man was where he should have been - on the shore.’
    • ‘As long as the tide ebbed, eels were leaving the marshes and running out to sea.’
    • ‘The tide was still ebbing furiously and the course lay once again upwind, and for a few minutes I amused some onlooking fisherman by not making any headway at all.’
    • ‘These might contain a couple of feet of water or a mere stream when the tide ebbs, but quickly become deep, surging rivers of seawater when it flows.’
    • ‘She explains that the animals instinctively know when the tide is ebbing, and thus when to come down to the shore to graze.’
    • ‘I'm going to paint among the wild flowers of oak woods - primroses, bluebells, anemones and wild garlic, above an estuary as the tide ebbs and flows.’
    recede, go out, retreat, flow back, draw back, fall back, fall away, abate, subside
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  • 2(of an emotion or quality) gradually decrease.

    ‘my enthusiasm was ebbing away’
    • ‘Her strength was ebbing, but she seemed ever more focused and determined.’
    • ‘The cold in her body began to ebb away leaving a total numbness.’
    • ‘His functional strength ebbs and flows with his opinion poll ratings.’
    • ‘But the surprise in his eyes soon faded to sadness, and the sadness ebbed away to emptiness.’
    • ‘Alyssa had put her hand on his shoulder, her laughter slowly ebbing away.’
    • ‘He grabbed it and rubbed his funny bone vigorously until the pain ebbed.’
    • ‘At this point, you're tired, stressed, and your confidence has ebbed.’
    • ‘I felt my anger ebb away and a feeling of shame come over me.’
    • ‘I closed my eyes and gradually felt the hurt and disappointment ebbing away when I felt his arms enveloping me, encasing me in his warmth.’
    • ‘Her confidence ebbed slightly under his doubt, but she didn't let it show.’
    • ‘Cuddling into his warmth, she allowed her eyes to close as her anger ebbed until it faded completely, leaving a small twinge of guilt in its wake.’
    • ‘I felt my anger slowly ebb away at the sound of pure concerned in the deep tenor of his voice.’
    • ‘All became silent for Luke and Aaron as they slowly felt their energy ebb away.’
    • ‘But after the initial wave of shock and anger ebbed, Rogers had a different idea.’
    • ‘The pain had already begun to ebb, and she drifted easily off to sleep.’
    • ‘And then, just as their sense of danger began to ebb, she hurled herself at them, singling out the most vulnerable as she charged.’
    • ‘She exhaled, relieved as the pain ebbed; groaned as it started again.’
    • ‘He sighed, a bit of the anger ebbing away from his countenance.’
    • ‘I breathe deeply and slowly, and gradually the sinking feeling ebbs and I lift my head.’
    • ‘Emily's tension slowly began to ebb away at Brett's caress but she still felt bad; she had ruined a wonderful afternoon with her stupidity.’
    diminish, dwindle, wane, fade away, melt away, peter out, decline, die away, die down, die out, flag, let up, lessen, decrease, weaken, dissolve, disappear, come to an end
    abatement, subsiding, easing, waning, dwindling, petering out, dying away, dying down, dying out, fading away, de-escalation, decrease, decline, diminution, diminishing, lessening
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  • at a low ebb

    • In a weakened or depressed state.

      ‘the country was at a low ebb due to the recent war’
      • ‘That meant her finances were at a low ebb; her grandson's expenses must be higher than expected.’
      • ‘She says Franklin caught her when she was at a low ebb.’
      • ‘But the farming community is at a low ebb and they are in a weak position.’
      • ‘Instead of two on-form sides, this year there are players on both teams whose confidence is at a low ebb following months of poor performances.’
      • ‘Whether or not you believe that the War on Iraq was justified, transparency and accountability in our democracy appears to be at a low ebb.’
      • ‘Morale at top management level is said to be at a low ebb.’
      • ‘Investor confidence is at a low ebb and safeguards need to be built into the new regime before that confidence evaporates further.’
      • ‘The quality of international football is at a low ebb.’
      • ‘The drought continues and fishing activity is at a low ebb.’
      • ‘Public confidence in Britain's hospitals is at a low ebb.’
  • ebb and flow

    • A recurrent pattern of coming and going or decline and regrowth.

      ‘the ebb and flow of state politics and power’
      • ‘The songs in turn reflect the cyclic patterns of ebb and flow found out there in the elements.’
      • ‘The entertainment in the game was its ebb and flow, not the quality of football.’
      • ‘There have been specific tactical changes and an ebb and flow of activity.’
      • ‘The ceaseless, restless ebb and flow of humanity makes up the shifting patterns of life in a city.’
      • ‘It emerges from the ebb and flow of collective grievances and struggles for power.’
      • ‘It is the ebb and flow of workload, which is the normal professional control of the consulting engineer in the exercise of his duties.’
      • ‘Each day, I'll be posting the running totals for each decade, so that you can track the ebb and flow of their fortunes as the project runs on.’
      • ‘I bought my drink, took it to an empty table and sat back to listen to the ebb and flow of conversation around me.’
      • ‘Football at all levels thrives on that ebb and flow of teams emerging as powers to take the place of those who have fallen by the wayside.’
      • ‘He is more generous with the conversational ebb and flow than he needs to be.’


Old English ebba (noun), ebbian (verb), of West Germanic origin; related to Dutch ebbe (noun), ebben (verb), and ultimately to of which had the primary sense ‘away from’.