decay

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English[edit]

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Etymology[edit]

From Old French decair (to fall away, decay, decline), from Medieval Latin *decadere, restored form of Latin decidere (to fall away, fail, sink, perish), from de (down) + cadere (to fall); compare decadent and decadence.

Pronunciation[edit]

Noun[edit]

decay (countable and uncountable, plural decays)

  1. The process or result of being gradually decomposed.
    • 1895, H. G. Wells, The Time Machine Chapter X
      I fancied at first the stuff was paraffin wax, and smashed the jar accordingly. But the odor of camphor was unmistakable. It struck me as singularly odd, that among the universal decay, this volatile substance had chanced to survive, perhaps through many thousand years.
  2. A deterioration of condition.

Derived terms[edit]

Translations[edit]

The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Help:How to check translations.

Verb[edit]

decay (third-person singular simple present decays, present participle decaying, simple past and past participle decayed)

  1. (intransitive) To deteriorate, to get worse, to lose strength or health, to decline in quality.
    The pair loved to take pictures in the decaying hospital on forty-third street.
    1. (intransitive, electronics, of storage media or the data on them) To undergo bit rot, that is, gradual degradation.
    2. (intransitive, computing, of software) To undergo software rot, that is, to fail to be updated in a changing environment,so as to eventually become legacy or obsolete.
    3. (intransitive, physics, of a satellite's orbit) To undergo prolonged reduction in altitude (above the orbitted body).
      2009, Francis Lyall, Paul B. Larsen, Space Law: A Treatise, page 120:
      • Damaged on lift-off, Skylab was left in orbit until its orbit decayed.
  2. (intransitive, of organic material) To rot, to go bad.
    The cat's body decayed rapidly.
  3. (intransitive, transitive, physics, chemistry, of an unstable atom) To change by undergoing fission, by emitting radiation, or by capturing or losing one or more electrons.
    • 2005, Encyclopedia of Earth Science (edited by Timothy M. Kusky; ISBN 0-8160-4973-4), page 349:
      Uranium decays to radium through a long series of steps with a cumulative half-life of 4.4 billion years.
  4. (intransitive, transitive, physics, of a quantum system) To undergo optical decay, that is, to relax to a less excited state, usually by emitting a photon or phonon.
  5. (aviation) This word needs a translation to English. Please help out and add a translation, then remove the text {{rfdef}}.
  6. (transitive) To cause to rot or deteriorate.
    The extreme humidity decayed the wooden sculptures in the museum's collection in a matter of years.
    • Shakespeare
      Infirmity, that decays the wise.

Translations[edit]

The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Help:How to check translations.

External links[edit]