• synonyms


[verb uh-ten-yoo-eyt; adjective uh-ten-yoo-it, -eyt]
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verb (used with object), at·ten·u·at·ed, at·ten·u·at·ing.
  1. to weaken or reduce in force, intensity, effect, quantity, or value: to attenuate desire.
  2. to make thin; make slender or fine.
  3. Bacteriology, Immunology. to render less virulent, as a strain of pathogenic virus or bacterium.
  4. Electronics. to decrease the amplitude of (an electronic signal).
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verb (used without object), at·ten·u·at·ed, at·ten·u·at·ing.
  1. to become thin or fine; lessen.
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  1. weakened; diminishing.
  2. Botany. tapering gradually to a narrow extremity.
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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 formso·ver·at·ten·u·ate, verb (used with object), o·ver·at·ten·u·at·ed, o·ver·at·ten·u·at·ing.sub·at·ten·u·ate, adjectivesub·at·ten·u·at·ed, adjectiveun·at·ten·u·at·ed, adjectiveun·at·ten·u·at·ed·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for attenuate

debilitate, constrict, vitiate, mitigate, extenuate, cripple, lessen, deflate, dissipate, enfeeble, disable, contract, abate, sap, shrink, undermine, thin

Examples from the Web for attenuate

Contemporary Examples of attenuate

Historical Examples of attenuate

  • 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.

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

  • It does not attenuate the power and originality of his themes that they are essentially of the piano.


    James Huneker

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


    William Archer

British Dictionary definitions for attenuate


verb (əˈtɛnjʊˌeɪt)
  1. to weaken or become weak; reduce in size, strength, density, or value
  2. to make or become thin or fine; extend
  3. (tr) to make (a pathogenic bacterium, virus, etc) less virulent, as by culture in special media or exposure to heat
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adjective (əˈtɛnjʊɪt, -ˌeɪt)
  1. diluted, weakened, slender, or reduced
  2. botany tapering gradually to a point
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Word Origin for attenuate

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

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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

attenuate in Medicine


  1. To reduce in force, value, amount, or degree; weaken; diminish.
  2. To make bacteria or viruses less virulent.
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  1. Reduced or weakened, as in strength, value, or virulence.
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.