Origin of thin

before 900; (adj. and adv.) Middle English thyn(ne), Old English thynne; cognate with Dutch dun, German dünn, Old Norse thunnr; (v.) Middle English thynnen, Old English thynnian, derivative of the adj.; compare Middle Dutch dunnen, Old Norse thynna; akin to Old Irish tana, Latin tenuis thin, Greek tany- long
Related formsthin·ly, adverbthin·ness, nouno·ver·thin, adjectiveo·ver·thin·ly, adverbo·ver·thin·ness, nounself-thin·ning, adjectivesu·per·thin, adjectiveun·thinned, adjectiveun·thin·ning, adjective

Synonyms for thin

3. slim, slender, skinny, lank, scrawny. Thin, gaunt, lean, spare agree in referring to one having little flesh. Thin applies often to one in an unnaturally reduced state, as from sickness, overwork, lack of food, or the like: a thin, dirty little waif. Gaunt suggests the angularity of bones prominently displayed in a thin face and body: to look ill and gaunt. Lean usually applies to a person or animal that is naturally thin: looking lean but healthy after an outdoor vacation. Spare implies a muscular leanness with no diminution of vitality: Lincoln was spare in body. 5. meager. 8. weak.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for thinning

Contemporary Examples of thinning

Historical Examples of thinning

  • She had a faded, washed-out look, and her hair was thinning out.

    Welsh Fairy Tales

    William Elliott Griffis

  • “They are there,” said I, surveying from my vantage-ground the thinning ranks.

    The First Violin

    Jessie Fothergill

  • The timber was being neglected, there was no thinning and no planting.

    The Nebuly Coat

    John Meade Falkner

  • Pruning a tree is a way of thinning the fruit and a good one.

    Apple Growing

    M. C. Burritt

  • The bank deposits were thinning, and the vein was thinning with it.

    The Cross-Cut

    Courtney Ryley Cooper

British Dictionary definitions for thinning


adjective thinner or thinnest

of relatively small extent from one side or surface to the other; fine or narrow
slim or lean
sparsely placed; meagrethin hair
of relatively low density or viscositya thin liquid
weak; poor; insufficienta thin disguise
(of a photographic negative) having low density, usually insufficient to produce a satisfactory positive
mountaineering a climb or pitch on which the holds are few and small
thin on the ground few in number; scarce


in order to produce something thinto cut bread thin

verb thins, thinning or thinned

to make or become thin or sparse
Derived Formsthinly, adverbthinness, noun

Word Origin for thin

Old English thynne; related to Old Frisian thenne, Old Saxon, Old High German thunni, Old Norse thunnr, Latin tenuis thin, Greek teinein to stretch
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 thinning



Old English þynne "narrow, lean, scanty," from Proto-Germanic *thunnuz, *thunw- (cf. West Frisian ten, Middle Low German dunne, Dutch dun, Old High German dunni, German dünn, Old Norse þunnr), from PIE *tnus-, *tnwi-, from weak grade of root *ten- "stretch" (cf. Latin tenuis "thin, slender;" see tenet).

These our actors ... were all Spirits, and Are melted into Ayre, into thin Ayre. [Shakespeare, "The Tempest," IV.i.150, 1610]

Thin-skinned is attested from 1590s; the figurative sense of "touchy" is from 1670s.



Old English þynnian "to make thin" (cf. German dünnen, Dutch dunnen), from thin (adj.). Intransitive sense of "to become less numerous" is attested from 1743; that of "to become thinner" is recorded from 1804. Related: Thinned; thinning.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with thinning


In addition to the idioms beginning with thin

  • thin as a rail
  • thin edge of the wedge
  • thing or two
  • things are looking up
  • thin on top

also see:

  • into thin air
  • on thin ice
  • spread oneself too thin
  • through thick and thin
  • wear thin
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.