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[verb uh-ten-yoo-eyt; adjective uh-ten-yoo-it, -eyt] /verb əˈtɛn yuˌeɪt; adjective əˈtɛn yu ɪt, -ˌeɪt/
verb (used with object), attenuated, attenuating.
to weaken or reduce in force, intensity, effect, quantity, or value:
to attenuate desire.
to make thin; make slender or fine.
Bacteriology, Immunology. to render less virulent, as a strain of pathogenic virus or bacterium.
Electronics. to decrease the amplitude of (an electronic signal).
verb (used without object), attenuated, attenuating.
to become thin or fine; lessen.
weakened; diminishing.
Botany. tapering gradually to a narrow extremity.
Origin of attenuate
First recorded in 1520-30, attenuate is from the Latin word attenuātus (past participle of attenuāre to thin, reduce). See at-, tenuis, -ate1
Related forms
overattenuate, verb (used with object), overattenuated, overattenuating.
subattenuate, adjective
subattenuated, adjective
unattenuated, adjective
unattenuatedly, adverb Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for attenuate
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The Venetian shutters often had to be lowered in the summer to attenuate the great heat.

  • It will attenuate, at least with respect to him, the severity of simple minds.

    Cosmopolis, Complete Paul Bourget
  • I shall not attempt to laugh off the question, or to attenuate its importance.

    Chapter of Autobiography W E Gladstone
  • It does not attenuate the power and originality of his themes that they are essentially of the piano.

    Unicorns James Huneker
  • It would not have been difficult to attenuate the coincidence.

    Play-Making William Archer
  • Indeed, he seemed to be trying to attenuate that when he spoke next.

    The Wild Olive Basil King
  • Neither were they distant; they were close to me, but attenuate.

    Lilith George MacDonald
  • Pitt was right in his facts; but etiquette required that he should withdraw or at least attenuate his charge.

    William Pitt and the Great War John Holland Rose
  • How much does it attenuate the value of his intentions, as proofs of an internal philosophical sequence?

British Dictionary definitions for attenuate


verb (əˈtɛnjʊˌeɪt)
to weaken or become weak; reduce in size, strength, density, or value
to make or become thin or fine; extend
(transitive) to make (a pathogenic bacterium, virus, etc) less virulent, as by culture in special media or exposure to heat
adjective (əˈtɛnjʊɪt; -ˌeɪt)
diluted, weakened, slender, or reduced
(botany) tapering gradually to a point
Word Origin
C16: from Latin attenuāre to weaken, from tenuis thin
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for attenuate

"to make thin, to make less," 1520s, from Latin attenuatus "enfeebled, weak," past participle of attenuare "to make thin, lessen, diminish," from ad- "to" (see ad-) + tenuare "make thin," from tenuis "thin" (see tenet). Related: Attenuated; attenuating. Earlier was Middle English attenuen "to make thin (in consistency)," early 15c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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attenuate in Medicine

attenuate at·ten·u·ate (ə-těn'yōō-āt')
v. at·ten·u·at·ed, at·ten·u·at·ing, at·ten·u·ates

  1. To reduce in force, value, amount, or degree; weaken; diminish.

  2. To make bacteria or viruses less virulent.

Reduced or weakened, as in strength, value, or virulence.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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