Definition of shrink in US English:



  • 1Become or make smaller in size or amount; contract or cause to contract.

    with object ‘the summer sun had shrunk and dried the wood’
    no object ‘the workforce has shrunk to less than a thousand’
    • ‘Three thousand Opel workers lost their jobs at that time, shrinking the workforce from 12,000 to 9,000.’
    • ‘Faced with budget deficits when he took office in 1993, Mayor Giuliani refused to raise taxes but instead shrank the size of government and slowly began cutting taxes.’
    • ‘The current bearish stock market, rising energy costs, and shrinking family size would all seem to counter this trend.’
    • ‘By shrinking the size of the transistors and other features etched into the silicon, more of the tiny devices can be squeezed onto a single chip.’
    • ‘Chipmakers can cut costs by shrinking the size of their semiconductors and fitting more on a single silicon wafer.’
    • ‘Harvard, Yale, and Stanford have shrunk the amount of their endowments allocated to private equity, which includes venture, for three straight years.’
    • ‘He has shrunk the size of the federal government for the first time since Eisenhower.’
    • ‘She had radiation to shrink the size of the tumor.’
    • ‘Instead of attacking popular federal social programs, the idea is to kill them off by shrinking the size of government.’
    • ‘It has argued that because of the country's aging population and shrinking workforce, pension premiums had to be raised and benefits reduced if the scheme were to survive.’
    • ‘Of course he also brought a determination to rebuild the U.S. Military, to cut taxes, to shrink the size of government and he went right to work to do all these things.’
    • ‘Chemotherapy shrank it to the size of an apricot, but David needed a specialised biopsy to determine whether the tumour was still cancerous.’
    • ‘A flashing icon alerts viewers when mail arrives, and the TV screen can be shrunk to one-quarter size while the viewer reads and responds to the mail.’
    • ‘So, let's do everything we can to grow the economy and shrink the relative size of the deficit tumor.’
    • ‘Developments in sub-machine guns since 1945 have concentrated on bringing them closer to assault rifles and shrinking them in size.’
    • ‘The workforce has shrunk by 1,000 over the last two years.’
    • ‘The selling point for the single-chip design is not just shrinking the box size but also lower cost in producing the units because of its simpler design.’
    • ‘So the central problem is that we will shrink the workforce at the same time that we increase the number of people out of the workforce.’
    • ‘The new process not only shrinks the die size thereby reducing manufacturing costs but will also improve speeds by more than 30 per cent, says the company.’
    • ‘At the pulp mill, likewise, the workforce has shrunk to a fraction of its former size.’
    get smaller, become smaller, grow smaller, contract, diminish, lessen, reduce, decrease, dwindle, narrow, shorten, slim, decline, fall off, drop off, condense, deflate, shrivel, wither
    make smaller, contract, lessen, reduce, decrease, narrow, shorten, truncate, abbreviate, condense, slim down, pare down, concentrate, abridge, compress, squeeze, deflate, shrivel, wither
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    1. 1.1no object (of clothes or material) become smaller as a result of being immersed in water.
      • ‘If you wash and dry after sewing up, the material will shrink and the pieces will distort.’
      • ‘Will the market for printed Japanese materials shrink?’
      • ‘Keep in mind the material might shrink slightly.’
      • ‘Amazingly, when he did, the clothes shrunk before his eyes to form a perfect fit.’
      • ‘Technically, silk does not shrink like other fibers.’
      • ‘Some fabrics shrink or change shape when washed.’
      • ‘Clothes will shrink upon wish granting, but they never stretch.’
    2. 1.2as adjective shrunken (especially of a person's face or other part of the body) withered, wrinkled, or shriveled through old age or illness.
      ‘a tiny shrunken face and enormous eyes’
      • ‘His Solomon is a revelation, a shrunken 90-year-old Russian Jew in too-short trousers and a sheepskin collared overcoat, who refuses a drink when he wheezes his way to the top of the house.’
      • ‘When I entered the familiar office his shrunken form lolled in his motorized chair as he stared out, rendered goggle-eyed by his thick glasses - but a strong spirit animated all he said.’
      • ‘Her large soulful eyes took up have of her shrunken face, making her look like a skeleton covered with skin.’
      • ‘Her shrunken face is ash white but her eyes burn in recognition.’
      • ‘The frail, shrunken body on the couch seeming to control (or merely mimic, perhaps) the powerful one in the arena.’
      • ‘The shrunken, leathery bag that is 39-year-old Lanegan's face tells you all you need to know about the price to be paid for a life lived on the margins.’
      • ‘Her arms are stick like and her skin folds down around her shrunken body like a curtain.’
      • ‘The intense painting shows three old women with shrunken faces and clad in white.’
      • ‘After some initially difficult yanking his shrunken body fell through the spiked hole without too much complaint.’
      • ‘It was a mummified, shrunken climber wrapped in a sun-bleached tent.’
      • ‘Sunny's eyes softened and kneeled next to my shrunken body.’
      • ‘Her auburn curls bounced against her shrunken face.’
      • ‘Stephen Hawking looks like a shrunken pile of bones, yet in his scientific investigations he is probing the secrets of the origin of the universe.’
      • ‘The little shrunken body had become almost transparent.’
      wrinkled, lined, creased, shrivelled, shrivelled up, withered, weather-beaten, thin, shrunken, gnarled, dried up, worn, wasted
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    3. 1.3shrink something onwith object Slip a metal tire or other fitting on to (something) while it is expanded with heat and allow it to tighten in place.
      ‘the metal is unsuitable for shrinking onto wooden staves’
  • 2no object, with adverbial of direction Move back or away, especially because of fear or disgust.

    ‘she shrank away from him, covering her face’
    ‘he shrank back against the wall’
    • ‘Have we the moral courage to welcome it as an opportunity, or will we shrink back into fearing it as a threat?’
    • ‘A gleam of something shot through his eyes, and I shrunk back in fear.’
    • ‘He moved toward the couch, but she shrunk back like a startled cat at his advance.’
    • ‘The archive page has moved, and has shrunk dramatically.’
    • ‘Saki shrunk in fear and revulsion as he approached her.’
    • ‘However, from the house to Oban on the mainland is a two-hour journey, which for some will be a major asset, although others may shrink in fear at the thought.’
    • ‘Although private equity investment in many countries was already shrinking amid fears of a global recession, it has now fallen off a cliff.’
    • ‘But as I grew older, wiser, the fear slowly shrunk, and the hatred took over.’
    • ‘I encouraged people not to shrink in fear and self-protection, but be unusually visionary and ethical.’
    • ‘Claire wanted to shrink back in fear, she never saw anyone look so upset.’
    • ‘Lela felt her face pale and her pupils shrink in fear, and she slowly put her project aside.’
    • ‘Clutching my book to my chest in feigned terror, I shrunk back in mock fear and straggled out,’
    • ‘She shrunk back in fear, shaking uncontrollably.’
    • ‘Bruno retreats immediately, shrinking away physically and verbally.’
    • ‘When you put them down on paper, your fears shrink.’
    • ‘Having shrunken back in fear, Anna now found the strength to straighten up again and hold her head high.’
    • ‘People no longer winced or shrunk away in fear when she passed, and the teachers no longer completely ignored her.’
    • ‘While other big cities see their populations shrink, foreigners are moving in to the capital and boosting the population and it is changing the social and economic landscape.’
    • ‘The lobby was designed so that natural light almost shrank back out of fear as soon as you reached Slotland.’
    • ‘However, rather than capitalise on the rapport we had built up, I instead shrank back in fear.’
    draw back, recoil, jump back, spring back, jerk back, pull back, start back, back away, retreat, withdraw
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    1. 2.1shrink fromoften with negative Be averse to or unwilling to do (something difficult or unappealing)
      ‘I don't shrink from my responsibilities’
      • ‘One instinctively shrinks from such claims - accurate or not.’
      • ‘Because of some obstacle - a constitutional weakness or defect, wrong education, bad experiences, an unsuitable attitude, etc. - one shrinks from the difficulties which life brings.’
      • ‘Seems to me he avoided direct questions the way a small boy shrinks from soap and water.’
      • ‘Suddenly the country's and the world's biggest English newspaper has others in the media shrinking from association with it.’
      • ‘It is incredible that they now shrink from removing a leader who nobody seems to think will win one.’
      • ‘Which is not to say he shrinks from boldly pushing his party's Islamic agenda.’
      • ‘I think she - she's the type of person who has a lot of opinions, has a lot to say and certainly wouldn't shrink from writing it.’
      • ‘Yet I believe the exit polls have the white Catholic vote shrinking from more than one-third of the population to less than one-quarter.’
      • ‘Villagers rushed to the aid of the crash victims, not shrinking from the carnage that confronted them.’
      • ‘The 59-year-old, with the courtly manner of the southern black gentry, shrinks from criticizing others.’
      • ‘But right now the government is shrinking from its duty in addressing such trepidation.’
      • ‘I've never thought myself to be someone who shrinks from confrontation.’
      • ‘He did not shrink from openly intervening in Irish, Filipino and other national politics to push for an abolition of the death penalty.’
      • ‘Today's progressive-ed pedagogy, with its focus on pupils' self-esteem, shrinks from giving students the constant challenge they need to move on to a new level of mastery and insight.’
      • ‘In a species as hungry for social interaction as ours, a trait that causes some individuals to shrink from the group ought to have been snuffed out pretty early on.’
      • ‘The Government often shrinks from confrontation and instead engages in short-term deal-making that often undermines long-term policy objectives.’
      • ‘My neighbour has a two-year old who spent 6 months in hospital as a baby, and still shrinks from the noise of other babies' distress, needing comfort and reassurance from mum.’
      • ‘I would rather be defeated then shrink from the great issues, because from such defeats we rise again with twice as much strength.’
      • ‘Stiegler does not shrink from this difficulty.’
      • ‘We need to show that what we care about is our children having as good a chance in life as possible, that we are not shrinking from people with disabilities.’
      recoil, shy away, hang back, demur, flinch
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    2. 2.2shrink into oneselfno object Become withdrawn.
      • ‘I think of myself like that when I put the sunglasses on; they make me shrink into myself, and feel half the weight I was earlier that day.’
      • ‘I swallowed back the sickly lump I felt forming in the back of my throat as I heard the recognizable, queenly footsteps of my mistress, and I could feel my body shrink into itself.’
      • ‘Beth has already met Arleen Starr, who spoke with her prior to sending her off for another set of tests, but the doctor is still a stranger who makes Beth shrink into herself with shyness.’
      • ‘He watched her in astonishment as she seemed to shrink into herself, and sank slowly onto the chair almost directly behind her.’
      • ‘They didn't even want to look at me… ‘She wrapped her arms around her stomach and seemed to shrink into herself, rocking slowly back and forth.’’
      • ‘Unless these individual Muslims are very exceptional individuals they do as Smith did and shrink into themselves.’
      • ‘She blinked at him and shrank into herself further.’
      • ‘She clutched at a black handbag and as the lights came back on, she shrank into herself at the far end of the room.’
      • ‘‘That's his little brat,’ I heard and turned to see the woman glaring at the girl and I noticed the girl seemed to shrink into herself.’
      • ‘Everyone glanced at the diminutive Japanese girl, who immediately shrank into herself.’
      • ‘He watched the woman shrink into herself and frowned.’
      • ‘She looked as if she was shrinking into herself, her eyes cast down at the floor.’
      • ‘Charlie seems to want to shrink into himself, fold over layer by layer, until he resolves into nothing.’
      • ‘The pirate took a small step back, shrinking into himself as if he wanted nothing more than to disappear.’
      • ‘Lila hasn't moved a step, but she looks like she's shrinking into herself.’
      • ‘I shrink into myself and become sullen and uncommunicative.’
      • ‘She shrank into herself, and I haven't seen the real Emily since.’


  • A clinical psychologist, psychiatrist, or psychotherapist.

    ‘you should see a shrink’
    • ‘Yet if they are or were psychotic - a word the shrinks struggle to define - a parole board is irrelevant.’
    • ‘A bevy of Welsh shrinks have modified an existing psychological test to identify people with psychopathic tendencies.’
    • ‘I found a shrink in the hospital who specialized in treating survivors of prostitution and pornography.’
    • ‘Manhattan, and especially the Upper East Side, is a hotbed of analysts and shrinks who will massage the angst of those who can afford their fees.’
    • ‘Counsellors, shrinks and psychologists are flocking to the disaster sites and the homes of grieving relatives to comfort the hurting, the stunned and the overwhelmed, sometimes with a media crew in tow.’
    • ‘With a good referral, you can get to a shrink with expertise in this area, and you'll be back in the boudoir in no time.’
    • ‘She squeezed his arms with what little energy remained in her frail body and went through all the mental exercises her shrink had suggested she put into practice when such episodes came about.’
    • ‘The other man is a shrink at a local psychiatric hospital.’
    • ‘There's always a raft of psychological explanations for such antics but, as with most things, it's actually a lot easier than the shrinks think.’
    • ‘Whether it's going off to college or dumping your shrink, I think that's part of the healthy growing process.’
    • ‘About twenty minutes in, I dare say this thought had even penetrated Robert's skull, and he started asking the shrinks what they all made of it.’
    • ‘Going to a counselor or a shrink was out of the question.’
    • ‘The cancer patients made one thing clear, no shrinks, we want to support each other, we can relate, we understand our own needs.’
    • ‘Then the shrink starts on about how at first they thought psychology was important but now things are changing.’
    • ‘I end up finding out things about people that they probably wouldn't tell their shrinks.’
    • ‘Why do you think the demand for psychotherapists / shrinks is growing and more and more people are turning to massage/yoga and other similarly relaxation-inducing activities.’
    • ‘This is Manhattan, even the shrinks have shrinks.’
    • ‘I know how manipulative, as the shrinks say, members of my sex can be.’
    • ‘There's no question about it - the tax-funded mental health system is merely welfare for the mental health experts, namely shrinks and therapists.’
    • ‘You need to consult with a kiddie shrink who will convince your wife that youngsters who call the shots wind up in a not very good place.’


Old English scrincan, of Germanic origin; related to Swedish skrynka ‘to wrinkle’.