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Borrowed from French atrophie, from Latin atrophia, from Ancient Greek ἀτροφία (atrophía, a wasting away), from ἄτροφος (átrophos, ill-fed, un-nourished), from ἀ- (a-, not) + τροφή (trophḗ, nourishment), from τρέφω (tréphō, I fatten). Equivalent to a- +‎ -trophy.


  • IPA(key): /ˈæt.ɹə.fi/
    • (file)


atrophy (countable and uncountable, plural atrophies)

  1. (pathology) A reduction in the functionality of an organ caused by disease, injury or lack of use. [from early 17th c.]

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atrophy (third-person singular simple present atrophies, present participle atrophying, simple past and past participle atrophied)

  1. (intransitive) To wither or waste away. [from early 18th c.]
    • 1987 June 13, Bill Watterson, Calvin & Hobbes (comic):
      Boy. I love summer vacation. I can feel my brain beginning to atrophy already.
    • 2013 October 13, Ellen Barry, “The Russia Left Behind: A journey through a heartland on the slow road to ruin”, in The New York Times[1]:
      The M10 highway looks normal enough at the southern limits of St. Petersburg, but then, with a jolt, it begins to atrophy. For the next 430 miles the surface of the highway, while paved, varies from corduroy to jaw-rattling patchwork.
  2. (transitive) To cause to waste away or become abortive; to starve or weaken.
    • 2001, Tool (lyrics and music), “Schism”:
      Cold silence has a tendency to atrophy any sense of compassion



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