a hollow or depression in a surface, as from a blow.
a noticeable effect, especially of reduction: to leave a dent in one's savings; a dent in one's pride.

verb (used with object)

to make a dent in or on; indent: The impact dented the car's fender.
to have the effect of reducing or slightly injuring: The caustic remark dented his ego.

verb (used without object)

to show dents; become indented: Tin dents more easily than steel.
to sink in, making a dent: Nails dent into metal.


    make a dent, Informal. to cause a person to take heed; make an impression: The doctor told him to stop smoking, but it didn't make a dent.
    make a dent in, to show initial progress; pass an initial stage of (work, thought, solving a problem, etc.): I haven't even made a dent in this pile of work.

Origin of dent

1250–1300; Middle English dente, variant of dint
Related formsun·dent·ed, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for make a dent in




a hollow or dip in a surface, as one made by pressure or a blow
an appreciable effect, esp of lesseninga dent in our resources


to impress or be impressed with a dent or dents

Word Origin for dent

C13 (in the sense: a stroke, blow): variant of dint




a toothlike protuberance, esp the tooth of a sprocket or gearwheel
textiles the space between two wires in a loom through which a warp thread is drawn

Word Origin for dent

C16: from French: tooth
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 make a dent in



late 14c., from dent (n.). Related: Dented; denting.



early 14c., "a strike or blow," dialectal variant of Middle English dint (q.v.); sense of "indentation" first recorded 1560s, apparently influenced by indent.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with make a dent in

make a dent in

Begin to accomplish or consume something, as in I've barely made a dent in this pile of correspondence, or Help us put a dent in this pie. This metaphoric expression alludes to striking a blow to make a physical indentation in something.


see make a dent in.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.