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[tey-per] /ˈteɪ pər/
verb (used without object)
to become smaller or thinner toward one end.
to grow gradually lean.
verb (used with object)
to make gradually smaller toward one end.
to reduce gradually.
gradual diminution of width or thickness in an elongated object.
gradual decrease of force, capacity, etc.
anything having a tapering form, as a spire or obelisk.
a candle, especially a very slender one.
a long wick coated with wax, tallow, or the like, as for use in lighting candles or gas.
Verb phrases
taper off,
  1. to become gradually more slender toward one end.
  2. to cease by degrees; decrease; diminish:
    The storm is beginning to taper off now. I haven't stopped smoking entirely, but I'm tapering off to three cigarettes a day.
Origin of taper1
before 900; Middle English: wax candle, Old English, variant of tapur, dissimilated variant of *papur paper
Related forms
taperer, noun
taperingly, adverb
untapered, adjective
untapering, adjective
Can be confused
taper, tapir. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.
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Examples from the Web for tapering
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The mosque of Mehemet Ali, with its tapering minarets, overlooks Cairo, and is itself a very remarkable and beautiful edifice.

    Foot-prints of Travel Maturin M. Ballou
  • I pointed out the tapering masts of our consort—if she was to be our consort—in the distance.

    Up the River Oliver Optic
  • Fruit long and slender, broadest at the base, tapering towards the stem, and often more or less curved.

  • Muscles and joints are less prominent, limbs more rounded and tapering.

    Sex Henry Stanton
  • Shaped like a spindle, swelling in the centre and tapering at the extremities.

    A Conchological Manual George Brettingham Sowerby
  • It had a tail more than half the length of the body, hairy, and tapering like that of a cat.

    The Young Voyageurs Mayne Reid
British Dictionary definitions for tapering


to become or cause to become narrower towards one end: the spire tapers to a point
(often foll by off) to become or cause to become smaller or less significant
a thin candle
a thin wooden or waxed strip for transferring a flame; spill
a narrowing
(engineering) (in conical parts) the amount of variation in the diameter per unit of length
any feeble source of light
Derived Forms
taperer, noun
tapering, adjective
taperingly, adverb
Word Origin
Old English tapor, probably from Latin papӯruspapyrus (from its use as a wick)
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 tapering



Old English tapur, taper "candle," not found outside English, possibly a dissimilated borrowing from Latin papyrus (see papyrus), which was used in Medieval Latin and some Romance languages for "wick of a candle" (e.g. Italian papijo "wick"), because these often were made from the pith of papyrus. Cf. also German kerze "candle," from Old High German charza, from Latin charta, from Greek khartes "papyrus, roll made from papyrus, wick made from pith of papyrus."


"shoot up like a flame or spire," 1580s, from taper (n.). Sense of "gradually decrease in size, force, etc." first recorded c.1600. Related: Tapered; tapering.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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