verb (used with object)

to make short or shorter.
to reduce, decrease, take in, etc.: to shorten sail.
to make (pastry, bread, etc.) short, as with butter or other fat.
Sports. choke(def 8).

verb (used without object)

to become short or shorter.
(of odds) to decrease.

Origin of shorten

First recorded in 1505–15; short + -en1
Related formsshort·en·er, nouno·ver·short·en, verbpre·short·en, verb (used with object)re·short·en, verbun·der·short·en, verb (used with object)un·short·en, adjective

Synonyms for shorten

1. condense, lessen, limit, restrict. Shorten, abbreviate, abridge, curtail mean to make shorter or briefer. Shorten is a general word meaning to make less in extent or duration: to shorten a dress, a prisoner's sentence. The other three terms suggest methods of shortening. To abbreviate is to make shorter by omission or contraction: to abbreviate a word. To abridge is to reduce in length or size by condensing, summarizing, and the like: to abridge a document. Curtail suggests deprivation and lack of completeness because of omitting some part: to curtail an explanation. 5. contract, lessen. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for shorten

Contemporary Examples of shorten

Historical Examples of shorten

  • Presently, to shorten his road, he left the park, and took to a lane outside it.

    The Coryston Family

    Mrs. Humphry Ward

  • We'll enjoy the fine weather till it's time to shorten sail.

    Cy Whittaker's Place

    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • Treachery, too, stepped in to shorten the time still further.

    The Snare

    Rafael Sabatini

  • I was making for Cattolica, but I missed my way in seeking to shorten it.

    The Shame of Motley

    Raphael Sabatini

  • "Perhaps I can shorten the pedigree," said Haggerstone, tartly.

British Dictionary definitions for shorten



to make or become short or shorter
(tr) nautical to reduce the area of (sail)
(tr) to make (pastry, bread, etc) short, by adding butter or another fat
gambling to cause (the odds) to lessen or (of odds) to become less
Derived Formsshortener, noun
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 shorten

1510s, "make shorter;" 1560s, "grow shorter," from short (adj.) + -en (1); the earlier form of the verb was simply short, from Old English sceortian "to grow short, become short; run short, fail," gescyrtan "to make short."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper