[ a-truh-fee ]
See synonyms for: atrophyatrophiedatrophying on

  1. Also a·tro·phi·a [uh-troh-fee-uh]. /əˈtroʊ fi ə/. Pathology. a wasting away of the body or of an organ or part, as from defective nutrition or nerve damage.

  2. degeneration, decline, or decrease, as from disuse: He argued that there was a progressive atrophy of freedom and independence of thought.

verb (used with or without object),at·ro·phied, at·ro·phy·ing.
  1. to affect with or undergo atrophy.

Origin of atrophy

First recorded in 1590–1600; earlier atrophie, from Middle French, from Late Latin atrophia, from Greek, from átroph(os) “not fed, unnourished” (from a- a-6 + troph(ḗ) “nourishment” + -os, adjective suffix; see tropho-) + -ia -ia

Other words from atrophy

  • a·troph·ic [uh-trof-ik, uh-troh-fik], /əˈtrɒf ɪk, əˈtroʊ fɪk/, adjective
  • non·a·troph·ic, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use atrophy in a sentence

  • Nevertheless, seen in the perspective of history, they are survivals, atrophying and disappearing.

    Appearances | Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson
  • Bereft of Juliet, thrown back upon himself, the best part of his nature was slowly atrophying from disuse.

    An Unknown Lover | Mrs. George de Horne Vaizey
  • Because I'd like to see if the atrophying of your brain has furnished any compensations.

    The Guarded Heights | Wadsworth Camp

British Dictionary definitions for atrophy


/ (ˈætrəfɪ) /

nounplural -phies
  1. a wasting away of an organ or part, or a failure to grow to normal size as the result of disease, faulty nutrition, etc

  2. any degeneration or diminution, esp through lack of use

verb-phies, -phying or -phied
  1. to waste away or cause to waste away

Origin of atrophy

C17: from Late Latin atrophia, from Greek, from atrophos ill-fed, from a- 1 + -trophos from trephein to feed

Derived forms of atrophy

  • atrophic (əˈtrɒfɪk), adjective

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

Scientific definitions for atrophy


[ ătrə-fē ]

  1. A wasting or decrease in the size of an organ or tissue, as from death and reabsorption of cells, diminished proliferation of cells, pressure, lack of oxygen, malnutrition, decreased function, or hormonal changes.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Cultural definitions for atrophy


[ (at-ruh-fee) ]

The wasting away or decrease in size of an organ or tissue in the body. When a body part is affected by paralysis, the muscles may atrophy through lack of use.

Notes for atrophy

The term is also used in a more general way to refer to a wasting process: “Since he stopped playing, his piano skills have atrophied.”

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.