[ uh-trahyt ]
/ əˈtraɪt /


Also at·trit·ed. worn by rubbing or attrition.

verb (used with object), at·trit·ed, at·trit·ing.

to make smaller by attrition.



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Question 1 of 10

Origin of attrite

1615–25; < Latin attrītus rubbed against, rubbed away, worn away (past participle of atterere), equivalent to at- at- + trī- (variant stem of terere to rub) + -tus past participle suffix


at·trite·ness, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020


What does attrite mean?

Attrite means to make smaller, wear down, or be lost due to attrition—a weakening or reduction. It can also be an adjective meaning “worn down” or “having been gradually reduced.”

Attrite is far less common than its noun form, attrition, which can refer to a decrease in number; a gradual weakening; a wearing down by friction; or a reduction, as in a work force or similar group when people are lost for various reasons. Attrite is often used to refer to loss of employees or members of an organization.

Example: We predict that 12 employees will attrite in the next four months.

Where did attrite come from?

Attrite comes from the Latin word attrītus, meaning “rubbed against” or “worn away” and entered English in the 1600s. Its noun form, attrition, is actually older, having entered English around the 1400s.

To attrite can generally mean to “wear down,” as in The snacks in the pantry are attriting my willpower. More commonly, it is used as an administrative term in the context of an attrition rate—the rate of how many people leave a group, especially employees, students, or customers. In this context, to attrite typically means “to leave the group by resigning or dropping out” (not by getting fired or expelled). Another specialized usage comes from linguistics and the concept of language attrition—which usually refers to the loss of a person’s native language. When your language attrites, you can no longer speak it confidently or fluently.

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What are some other forms of attrite?

What are some synonyms for attrite?

What are some words that share a root or word element with attrite?

What are some words that often get used in discussing attrite?

How is attrite used in real life?

This relatively rare word is usually only found in fairly specialized circles, mainly linguistics, economics, business, education, and the military.



Try using attrite!

Is attrite used correctly in the following sentence?

“Our data shows that customers began to attrite after we raised prices.”