[ verb uh-ten-yoo-eyt; adjective uh-ten-yoo-it, -eyt ]
See synonyms for: attenuateattenuated on

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.

  1. Bacteriology, Immunology. to render less virulent, as a strain of pathogenic virus or bacterium.

  2. Electronics. to decrease the amplitude of (an electronic signal): A splitter will attenuate your output.

verb (used without object),at·ten·u·at·ed, at·ten·u·at·ing.
  1. to become thin, fine, or weak; lessen: Over the years, my anger at my family attenuated and I was able to acknowledge the strengths they had given me.

  1. weakened; diminishing.

  2. Botany. tapering gradually to a narrow extremity.

Origin of attenuate

First recorded in 1520–30; from Latin attenuātus (past participle of attenuāre “to make thin, reduce”); see at-, tenuis, -ate1

Other words from attenuate

  • o·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, adjective

Words Nearby attenuate Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use attenuate in a sentence

  • Israeli retaliation of some kind is probably inevitable, but American influence can do much to attenuate the damage it causes.

    The Palestinian Choice—And Ours | Hussein Ibish | November 26, 2012 | THE DAILY BEAST
  • Her flowing dress of white brocade made no attempt to compress, to sustain or to attenuate.

    Tante | Anne Douglas Sedgwick
  • But before she could attenuate in any way the crudity of her collapse he gave an impatient jerk which took him to the window.

    What Maisie Knew | Henry James
  • The next day he added: "I am still sore vexed about Sherman, but Chenery did his best to attenuate the mischief."

  • Nevertheless, I had risen to make this answer, the ill grace of which I strove to attenuate by the courteousness of my attitude.

    Led Astray and The Sphinx | Octave Feuillet
  • Involucre globular; the imbricated scales coriaceous and appressed at base, attenuate to long stiff points with hooked tips.

British Dictionary definitions for attenuate


  1. to weaken or become weak; reduce in size, strength, density, or value

  2. to make or become thin or fine; extend

  1. (tr) to make (a pathogenic bacterium, virus, etc) less virulent, as by culture in special media or exposure to heat

adjective(əˈtɛnjʊɪt, -ˌeɪt)
  1. diluted, weakened, slender, or reduced

  2. botany tapering gradually to a point

Origin of 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