[ uh-trish-uhn ]
See synonyms for: attritionattritionalattritive on

  1. a reduction or decrease in numbers, size, or strength: Our club has had a high rate of attrition because so many members have moved away.

  2. a wearing down or weakening of resistance, especially as a result of continuous pressure or harassment: The enemy surrounded the town and conducted a war of attrition.

  1. a gradual reduction in workforce without firing or layoff of personnel, as when workers resign or retire and are not replaced.

  2. the act of rubbing against something; friction.

  3. a wearing down or away by friction; abrasion.

  4. Theology. imperfect contrition.: See under contrition (def. 2).

Origin of attrition

First recorded in 1325–75; Middle English, from Latin attrītiōn- (stem of attrītiō ) “friction”; see attrite, -ion

Other words from attrition

  • at·tri·tion·al, adjective
  • at·tri·tive [uh-trahy-tiv], /əˈtraɪ tɪv/, adjective
  • in·ter·at·tri·tion, noun

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

How to use attrition in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for attrition


/ (əˈtrɪʃən) /

  1. the act of wearing away or the state of being worn away, as by friction

  2. constant wearing down to weaken or destroy (often in the phrase war of attrition)

  1. Also called: natural wastage a decrease in the size of the workforce of an organization achieved by not replacing employees who retire or resign

  2. geography the grinding down of rock particles by friction during transportation by water, wind, or ice: Compare abrasion (def. 3), corrasion

  3. theol sorrow for sin arising from fear of damnation, esp as contrasted with contrition, which arises purely from love of God

Origin of attrition

C14: from Late Latin attrītiō a rubbing against something, from Latin atterere to weaken, from terere to rub

Derived forms of attrition

  • attritional, adjective
  • attritive (əˈtraɪtɪv), 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