[suhng-kuh n]


having sunk or been sunk beneath the surface; submerged.
having settled to a lower level, as walls.
situated or lying on a lower level: a sunken living room.
hollow; depressed: sunken cheeks.


Obsolete. a past participle of sink.

Nearby words

  1. sungrebe,
  2. sunhat,
  3. sunk,
  4. sunk fence,
  5. sunk relief,
  6. sunken garden,
  7. sunket,
  8. sunlamp,
  9. sunless,
  10. sunlessly

Origin of sunken

1325–75; Middle English, past participle of sinken to sink

Related formshalf-sunk·en, adjectiveun·sunk·en, adjective



verb (used without object), sank or, often, sunk; sunk or sunk·en; sink·ing.

to displace part of the volume of a supporting substance or object and become totally or partially submerged or enveloped; fall or descend into or below the surface or to the bottom (often followed by in or into): The battleship sank within two hours. His foot sank in the mud. Her head sinks into the pillows.
to fall, drop, or descend gradually to a lower level: The river sank two feet during the dry spell.
to settle or fall gradually, as a heavy structure: The tower is slowly sinking.
to fall or collapse slowly from weakness, fatigue, distress, etc.: He gasped and sank to his knees.
to slope downward; dip: The field sinks toward the highway.
to go down toward or below the horizon: the sun sinks in the west.
to penetrate, permeate, or seep (usually followed by in or into): Wipe the oil off before it sinks into the wood.
to become engulfed or absorbed in or gradually to enter a state (usually followed by in or into): to sink into slumber.
to be or become deeply absorbed or involved in a mood or mental state (usually followed by in or into): sunk in thought. She sank into despair.
to pass or fall into some lower state, as of fortune, estimation, etc.; degenerate: to sink into poverty.
to decline or deteriorate in quality or worth.
to fail in physical strength or health.
to decrease in amount, extent, intensity, etc.: The temperature sank to 30° at noon.
to become lower in volume, tone, or pitch: Her voice sank to a whisper.
to enter or permeate the mind; become known or understood (usually followed by in or into): He said it four times before the words really sank in.
to become concave; become hollow, as the cheeks.
to drop or fall gradually into a lower position: He sank down on the bench.

verb (used with object), sank or, often, sunk; sunk or sunk·en; sink·ing.

to cause to become submerged or enveloped; force into or below the surface; cause to plunge in or down: The submarine sank the battleship. He sank his fist into the pillow.
to cause to fall, drop, or descend gradually.
to cause to penetrate: to sink an ax into a tree trunk.
to lower or depress the level of: They sank the roadway by five feet.
to bury, plant, or lay (a pipe, conduit, etc.) into or as if into the ground.
to dig, bore, or excavate (a hole, shaft, well, etc.).
to bring to a worse or lower state or status.
to bring to utter ruin or collapse: Drinking and gambling sank him completely.
to reduce in amount, extent, intensity, etc.
to lower in volume, tone, or pitch.
to suppress; ignore; omit.
to invest in the hope of making a profit or gaining some other return: He sank all his efforts into the business.
to lose (money) in an unfortunate investment, enterprise, etc.
  1. to throw, shoot, hit, or propel (a ball) so that it goes through or into the basket, hole, pocket, etc.: She sank the 10 ball into the side pocket.
  2. to execute (a stroke or throw) so that the ball goes through or into the basket, hole, pocket, etc.: to sink a putt; to sink a free throw.


a basin or receptacle, as in a kitchen or laundry, usually connected with a water supply and drainage system, for washing dishes, clothing, etc.
a low-lying, poorly drained area where waters collect and sink into the ground or evaporate.
a place of vice or corruption.
a drain or sewer.
a device or place for disposing of energy within a system, as a power-consuming device in an electrical circuit or a condenser in a steam engine.
any pond or pit for sewage or waste, as a cesspool or a pool for industrial wastes.
any natural process by which contaminants are removed from the atmosphere.

Origin of sink

before 1000; (v.) Middle English sinken, Old English sincan; cognate with Dutch zinken, German sinken, Old Norse sǫkkva, Gothic singkwan; (noun) late Middle English: cesspool, derivative of the v.

Related forms Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for sunken

British Dictionary definitions for sunken



a past participle of sink


unhealthily hollowsunken cheeks
situated at a lower level than the surrounding or usual one
situated under water; submerged
depressed; lowsunken spirits


verb sinks, sinking, sank, sunk or sunken

to descend or cause to descend, esp beneath the surface of a liquid or soft substance
(intr) to appear to move down towards or descend below the horizon
(intr) to slope downwards; dip
(intr; often foll by in or into) to pass into or gradually enter a specified lower state or conditionto sink into apathy
to make or become lower in volume, pitch, etc
to make or become lower in value, price, etc
(intr) to become weaker in health, strength, etc
to decline or cause to decline in moral value, worth, etc
(intr) to seep or penetrate
(tr) to suppress or concealhe sank his worries in drink
(tr) to dig, cut, drill, bore, or excavate (a hole, shaft, etc)
(tr) to drive into the groundto sink a stake
(tr; usually foll by in or into)
  1. to invest (money)
  2. to lose (money) in an unwise or unfortunate investment
(tr) to pay (a debt)
(intr) to become hollow; cave inhis cheeks had sunk during his illness
(tr) to hit, throw, or propel (a ball) into a hole, basket, pocket, etche sank a 15-foot putt
(tr) British informal to drink, esp quicklyhe sank three pints in half an hour
sink or swim to take risks where the alternatives are loss and failure or security and success


a fixed basin, esp in a kitchen, made of stone, earthenware, metal, etc, used for washing
another word for cesspool
a place of vice or corruption
an area of ground below that of the surrounding land, where water collects
physics a device or part of a system at which energy is removed from the systema heat sink


informal (of a housing estate or school) deprived or having low standards of achievement
Derived Formssinkable, adjective

Word Origin for sink

Old English sincan; related to Old Norse sökkva to sink, Gothic siggan, Old High German sincan, Swedish sjunka

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 sunken
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Science definitions for sunken



A part of the physical environment, or more generally any physical system, that absorbs some form of matter or energy. For example, a forest acts as a sink for carbon dioxide because it absorbs more of the gas in photosynthesis than it releases in respiration. Coral reefs are a long-lasting sink for carbon, which they sequester in their skeletons in the form of calcium carbonate.
  1. See playa.
  2. See sinkhole.
  3. A circular depression on the flank of a volcano, caused by the collapse of a volcanic wall.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with sunken


In addition to the idioms beginning with sink

  • sink in
  • sinking feeling, a
  • sink one's teeth into
  • sink or swim
  • sink through the floor

also see:

  • desert a sinking ship
  • enough to sink a ship
  • everything but the kitchen sink
  • heart sinks
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.