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[shawr-tn] /ˈʃɔr tn/
verb (used with object)
to make short or shorter.
to reduce, decrease, take in, etc.:
to shorten sail.
to make (pastry, bread, etc.) short, as with butter or other fat.
Sports. choke (def 8).
verb (used without object)
to become short or shorter.
(of odds) to decrease.
Origin of shorten
First recorded in 1505-15; short + -en1
Related forms
shortener, noun
overshorten, verb
preshorten, verb (used with object)
reshorten, verb
undershorten, verb (used with object)
unshorten, adjective
1. condense, lessen, limit, restrict. Shorten, abbreviate, abridge, curtail mean to make shorter or briefer. Shorten is a general word meaning to make less in extent or duration: to shorten a dress, a prisoner's sentence. The other three terms suggest methods of shortening. To abbreviate is to make shorter by omission or contraction: to abbreviate a word. To abridge is to reduce in length or size by condensing, summarizing, and the like: to abridge a document. Curtail suggests deprivation and lack of completeness because of omitting some part: to curtail an explanation. 5. contract, lessen. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for shorten
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Presently, to shorten his road, he left the park, and took to a lane outside it.

    The Coryston Family Mrs. Humphry Ward
  • We'll enjoy the fine weather till it's time to shorten sail.

    Cy Whittaker's Place Joseph C. Lincoln
  • Treachery, too, stepped in to shorten the time still further.

    The Snare Rafael Sabatini
  • I was making for Cattolica, but I missed my way in seeking to shorten it.

    The Shame of Motley Raphael Sabatini
  • "Perhaps I can shorten the pedigree," said Haggerstone, tartly.

    The Daltons, Volume I (of II) Charles James Lever
British Dictionary definitions for shorten


to make or become short or shorter
(transitive) (nautical) to reduce the area of (sail)
(transitive) to make (pastry, bread, etc) short, by adding butter or another fat
(gambling) to cause (the odds) to lessen or (of odds) to become less
Derived Forms
shortener, noun
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 shorten

1510s, "make shorter;" 1560s, "grow shorter," from short (adj.) + -en (1); the earlier form of the verb was simply short, from Old English sceortian "to grow short, become short; run short, fail," gescyrtan "to make short."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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