Definition of declension in US English:



  • 1(in the grammar of Latin, Greek, and other languages) the variation of the form of a noun, pronoun, or adjective, by which its grammatical case, number, and gender are identified.

    • ‘Czech is a Slavic language with a declension system based on seven cases.’
    • ‘Gildersleeve and Lodge's Latin Grammar has a discussion of the declension of Greek nouns at pp.32-33.’
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    1. 1.1 The class to which a noun or adjective is assigned according to the manner of this variation.
      • ‘I vaguely remembered that this depends on whether ‘syllabus’ is second declension, in which case the plural would be ‘syllabi’, or fourth declension, in which case it would be ‘syllabus’.’
      • ‘In Latin, if a word is second declension, it will be masculine.’
      • ‘It was in Latin and not English Language classes that we learnt about the various verb tenses and noun declensions.’
      • ‘The fifth declension is unlikely because those nouns are all feminine.’
      • ‘The gender of the word alone is ambiguous, occurring in a declension denoting either males or females.’
  • 2archaic A condition of decline or moral deterioration.

    ‘the declension of the new generation’
    • ‘The present is thus perceived as that period of declension that is the subject of the jeremiad.’
    • ‘A careful reading of these reports from dozens of faithful missionaries - who preach the gospel of the sovereign grace of God in Jesus Christ - will bear out what we say about the widespread declension in missionary theology and methods.’
    • ‘The author is careful not to mock nineteenth century religious sensibilities, nor to denounce commercialization as an example of declension.’
    • ‘Both authors chronicle the rise and declension of rural Illinois communities and directly address the social/market debate that has invigorated the field of rural history.’
    • ‘Peter Milsom gave two very practical papers on spiritual growth and spiritual declension.’


Late Middle English declinson, from Old French declinaison, from decliner ‘to decline’. The change in the ending was probably due to association with words such as ascension.