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From Latin attenuāre, from attenuāt-, at- = ad-, ad- (to) + tenuāre (to make thin), tenuis (thin).


  • IPA(key): /əˈtɛn.juː.eɪt/
  • (file)


attenuate (third-person singular simple present attenuates, present participle attenuating, simple past and past participle attenuated)

  1. (transitive) To reduce in size, force, value, amount, or degree.
    • 1874, Thomas Hardy, Far From the Madding Crowd, ch. 40:
      A manor-house clock from the far depths of shadow struck the hour, one, in a small, attenuated tone.
  2. (transitive) To make thinner, as by physically reshaping, starving, or decaying.
    • 1899, Stephen Crane, His New Mittens, ch. 4:
      Clumps of attenuated turkeys were suspended here and there.
    • 1906, E. Phillips Oppenheim, The Malefactor, ch. 1:
      Lovell, wan and hollow-eyed, his arm in a sling, his once burly frame gaunt and attenuated with disease, nodded.
  3. (transitive) To weaken.
    • Coleridge
      The attention attenuates as its sphere contracts.
    • Sir F. Palgrave
      We may reject and reject till we attenuate history into sapless meagreness.
  4. (transitive) To rarefy.
    • 1901, H. G. Wells, The First Men in the Moon, ch. 23:
      "It speedily became apparent that the entire strangeness of our circumstances and surroundings—great loss of weight, attenuated but highly oxygenated air, consequent exaggeration of the results of muscular effort, rapid development of weird plants from obscure spores, lurid sky—was exciting my companion unduly."
  5. (transitive, medicine) To reduce the virulence of a bacterium or virus.
  6. (transitive, electronics) To reduce the amplitude of an electrical, radio, or optical signal.


Derived terms[edit]



attenuate (comparative more attenuate, superlative most attenuate)

  1. (botany, of leaves) Gradually tapering into a petiole-like extension toward the base.





  1. second-person plural present indicative of attenuare
  2. second-person plural imperative of attenuare
  3. feminine plural of attenuato




  1. first-person plural present active imperative of attenuō


  • attenuate in Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short (1879) A Latin Dictionary, Oxford: Clarendon Press
  • attenuate in Charlton T. Lewis (1891) An Elementary Latin Dictionary, New York: Harper & Brothers
  • attenuate in Gaffiot, Félix (1934) Dictionnaire Illustré Latin-Français, Hachette
  • attenuate in Ramminger, Johann (accessed 16 July 2016) Neulateinische Wortliste: Ein Wörterbuch des Lateinischen von Petrarca bis 1700[1], pre-publication website, 2005-2016