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verb (used without object), shrank or, often, shrunk; shrunk or shrunk·en; shrink·ing.
  1. to draw back, as in retreat or avoidance: to shrink from danger; to shrink from contact.
  2. to contract or lessen in size, as from exposure to conditions of temperature or moisture: This cloth will not shrink if washed in lukewarm water.
  3. to become reduced in extent or compass.
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verb (used with object), shrank or, often, shrunk; shrunk or shrunk·en; shrink·ing.
  1. to cause to shrink or contract; reduce.
  2. Textiles. to cause (a fabric) to contract during finishing, thus preventing shrinkage, during laundering, of the garments made from it.
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  1. an act or instance of shrinking.
  2. a shrinking movement.
  3. shrinkage.
  4. Also shrinker. Also called head shrinker. Slang. a psychotherapist, psychiatrist, or psychoanalyst.
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Origin of shrink

before 900; 1955–60 for def 9; Middle English schrinken, Old English scrincan; cognate with Middle Dutch schrinken, Swedish skrynka to shrink, Norwegian skrukka old shrunken woman
Related formsshrink·a·ble, adjectiveshrink·ing·ly, adverbnon·shrink·a·ble, adjectivenon·shrink·ing, adjectivenon·shrink·ing·ly, adverbo·ver·shrink, verb, o·ver·shrank or, often, o·ver·shrunk; o·ver·shrunk or o·ver·shrunk·en; o·ver·shrink·ing.un·shrink·a·ble, adjectiveun·shrink·ing, adjectiveun·shrink·ing·ly, adverb

Synonyms for shrink

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Synonym study

1. See wince1. 3. See decrease.

Antonyms for shrink

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for shrinking

retiring, timid, declining, bashful, coy, diffident, modest

Examples from the Web for shrinking

Contemporary Examples of shrinking

Historical Examples of shrinking

  • These shrinking hairs, they feared not death, but they seemed to fear Malbone.


    Thomas Wentworth Higginson

  • "Not so—not so," said the Dominican, shrinking from those fierce eyes.

    Fair Margaret

    H. Rider Haggard

  • "No, no," she gasped, shrinking into the corner of the carriage.

  • "I will listen," she said, shrinking as yet from other speech.

    Bride of the Mistletoe

    James Lane Allen

  • My mother did all she could for her, but was much baffled by her reserve and shrinking.

    The Coryston Family

    Mrs. Humphry Ward

British Dictionary definitions for shrinking


verb shrinks, shrinking, shrank, shrunk, shrunk or shrunken
  1. to contract or cause to contract as from wetness, heat, cold, etc
  2. to become or cause to become smaller in size
  3. (intr often foll by from)
    1. to recoil or withdrawto shrink from the sight of blood
    2. to feel great reluctance (at)to shrink from killing an animal
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  1. the act or an instance of shrinking
  2. slang a psychiatrist
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Derived Formsshrinkable, adjectiveshrinker, nounshrinking, adjectiveshrinkingly, adverb

Word Origin for shrink

Old English scrincan; related to Old Norse skrokkr torso, Old Swedish skrunkin wrinkled, Old Norse hrukka a crease, Icelandic skrukka wrinkled woman
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 shrinking



Old English scrincan "to draw in the limbs, contract, shrivel up; wither, pine away" (class III strong verb; past tense scranc, past participle scruncen), from Proto-Germanic *skrink- (cf. Middle Dutch schrinken), probably from PIE root *(s)ker- (3) "to turn, bend."

Originally with causal shrench (cf. drink/drench). Sense of "become reduced in size" recorded from late 13c. The meaning "draw back, recoil" (early 14c.) perhaps was suggested by the behavior of snails. Transitive sense, "cause to shrink" is from late 14c. Shrink-wrap is attested from 1961 (shrinking-wrap from 1959). Shrinking violet "shy person" attested from 1882.

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"an act of shrinking," 1580s, from shrink (v.). Slang meaning "psychiatrist," (1966) is from head-shrinker.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper