[ dee-kuhm-presh-uhn ]
/ ˌdi kəmˈprɛʃ ən /
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the gradual reduction in atmospheric pressure experienced by divers, construction workers, etc., after working in deep water or breathing compressed air.
the act or process of releasing from pressure.
Surgery. the procedure of relieving increased cranial, cardiac, or orbital pressure.
a state of relief from pressure; a return to normalcy after a stressful period or situation.
Computers. the restoration of data that has undergone compression to its original state.
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Origin of decompression

1900–05; probably <French décompression.See de-, compression
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does decompression mean?

Decompression is the process of decompressing—releasing or reducing pressure.

This literal meaning of decompression can be used in several contexts. Divers who’ve spent time in deep water decompress by coming up slowly. Divers and other underwater workers sometimes decompress by using a decompression chamber. The goal of decompression is to return the body to normal atmospheric pressure in order to avoid decompression sickness.

In a medical context, decompression is the process of releasing pressure in the body, such as from inside the skull, through surgery.

Decompression can also be used in a figurative way meaning the act of relaxing or unwinding. This sense of the word likens stress to pressure within the body that needs to be released. Close synonyms of the verb decompress are destress and blow off steam

In all senses of the word, the process of decompressing is called decompression.

Example: After a stressful day at work, my favorite form of decompression is a long bike ride.

Where does decompression come from?

The first records of the word decompression come from the early 1900s. Its root word, the verb compress, means “to press together.” The prefix de- means “removal” or “reversal.” So, to decompression is the removal of pressure.

For divers, decompression can be the difference between life and death. The figurative sense of decompression might not be quite as critical, but it’s still important. This kind of decompression can be done after any type of stressful situation, but it’s most often applied to what people do to switch off work mode. Sometimes, a day at work is like a day spent in deep water, with more and more pressure (stress) building up as the day goes on. Even after you finally resurface, you might still feel that pressure unless you find a way to release it. Different people decompress in different ways. For some people, their commute home is like a decompression chamber, where they can decompress by listening to music or a podcast. Other popular forms of decompression are exercise, meditation, reading, watching TV, playing video games, getting a massage, or spending time with friends. The best form of decompression is the one that works.

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What are some other forms related to decompression?

What are some synonyms for decompression?

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


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

How is decompression used in real life?

Since most people don’t literally work underwater, decompression is most commonly used in a figurative way in the context of stress relief.



Try using decompression!

Is decompression used correctly in the following sentence?

Some people’s form of decompression is being active, and other people’s is doing as little as possible.

How to use decompression in a sentence