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[eb] /ɛb/
the flowing back of the tide as the water returns to the sea (opposed to flood, flow).
a flowing backward or away; decline or decay:
the ebb of a once great nation.
a point of decline:
His fortunes were at a low ebb.
verb (used without object)
to flow back or away, as the water of a tide (opposed to flow).
to decline or decay; fade away:
His life is gradually ebbing.
Origin of ebb
before 1000; (noun) Middle English eb(be), Old English ebba; cognate with Old Frisian ebba, Dutch eb(be), German Ebbe ebb, Old Norse efja place where water backs up; (v.) Middle English ebben, Old English ebbian, derivative of the noun; akin to off
Related forms
unebbed, adjective
unebbing, adjective
4. subside, abate, recede, retire. 5. dwindle, diminish, decrease. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for ebbs
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Twice a day it rises, and twice a day it sinks and ebbs again all along the shore.

    True Words for Brave Men Charles Kingsley
  • So the flood of affairs surging through the house, ebbs at her door.

    The Simple Life Charles Wagner
  • It is the daily migration of labour, the tide morning and night ebbs and flows.

  • But Cinna, comparing his happiness with the sea, forgot that the sea has its ebbs.

    Let us follow Him Henryk Sienkiewicz
  • If she holds till it ebbs they can clomber ashore, every man-jack of em.

    A Singular Life Elizabeth Stuart Phelps
  • The ebbs and flows of the human mind are beyond the reach of astronomy.

    Vassall Morton Francis Parkman
  • Like the sea is our life for its largeness; like the sea in its ebbs and flows.

    The Optimist's Good Morning

    Florence Hobart Perin
  • The music lingers still for a moment, ebbs, and then dies away.

    Rossmoyne Unknown
  • Twice in every day it ebbs and flows; we call this movement of the sea the tides.

    On the Seashore

    R. Cadwallader Smith
British Dictionary definitions for ebbs


verb (intransitive)
(of tide water) to flow back or recede Compare flow (sense 9)
to fall away or decline
  1. the flowing back of the tide from high to low water or the period in which this takes place
  2. (as modifier): the ebb tide Compare flood (sense 3)
at a low ebb, in a state or period of weakness, lack of vigour, or decline
Word Origin
Old English ebba; related to Old Norse efja river bend, Gothic ibuks moving backwards, Old High German ippihōn to roll backwards, Middle Dutch ebbe ebb
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 ebbs



Old English ebbian, from the root of ebb (n.). Related: Ebbed; ebbing.



Old English ebba "ebb, low tide," perhaps from Proto-Germanic *abjon (cf. Old Frisian ebba, Old Saxon ebbiunga, Middle Dutch ebbe, Dutch eb, German Ebbe), from *ab-, from PIE root *apo- "off, away" (see apo-). Figurative sense of "decline, decay" is c.1400.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Idioms and Phrases with ebbs


In addition to the idioms beginning with ebb ebb and flow also see: at a low ebb
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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