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From Middle English schrynken, from Old English sċrincan, from Proto-Germanic *skrinkwaną. Cognate with Dutch schrinken (to shrink).

The sense psychologist, psychotherapist is a clipping of head-shrinker.


  • IPA(key): /ˈʃɹɪŋk/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɪŋk


shrink (third-person singular simple present shrinks, present participle shrinking, simple past shrank or shrunk, past participle shrunk or shrunken)

  1. (transitive) To cause to become smaller.
    The dryer shrank my sweater.
    • 2008 October, David Schipper, “Outsmart your stomach: Seven ways to fill your gut—and lose it, too”, in Men's Health, volume 23, number 8, ISSN 1054-4836, page 135:
      The bottom line is this: To shrink your gut, you need to start listening to it.
  2. (intransitive) To become smaller; to contract.
    This garment will shrink when wet.
  3. (intransitive) To cower or flinch.
    Molly shrank away from the blows of the whip.
  4. (transitive) To draw back; to withdraw.
  5. (intransitive, figuratively) To withdraw or retire, as from danger.
  6. (intransitive) To move back or away, especially because of fear or disgust.



Derived terms[edit]


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


shrink (plural shrinks)

  1. Shrinkage; contraction; recoil.
    • 1818, Leigh Hunt, “To T** L** H**, Six Years Old, During a Sickness.”, in Foliage; [], London: Printed for C. and J. Ollier, Welbeck Street, page xlvii:
      Yet almost with, with sudden shrink, That I had less to praise.
  2. (slang, sometimes derogatory) A psychiatrist or psychotherapist.
    Synonyms: head-shrinker, shrinker
    Coordinate term: shrinkette
    You need to see a shrink, you crazy fool.
    My shrink said that he was an enabler, bad for me.
    • 1994 August, Green Day (lyrics and music), “Basket Case”, in Dookie, Reprise Records, track 7:
      I went to a shrink to analyze my dreams / She says it's lack of sex that's bringing me down
    • 2021 March 10, “Stop & Examine”, in RAIL, number 926, page 70:
      "From behind the counter of this provincial train station coffee shop, Joanna was barista and unofficial shrink to wildly varied London-bound travellers," writes author Laline Paull. Confessions of a Barista on Platform 1 was published on February 9 by The Firle Press [...].
  3. (uncountable, business) Loss of inventory, for example due to shoplifting or not selling items before their expiration date.
    • 2011, Charles Sennewald & John Christman, Retail Crime, Security, and Loss Prevention: An Encyclopedic Reference, p. 227:
      Assuming the retailer's shrink is average or below, and the owner is comfortable with the level of shrink, perhaps nothing more need be done except to maintain vigilance and to monitor the shrink for signs of emerging problems.

Usage notes[edit]

  • (therapist): The slang sense was originally pejorative, expressing a distrust of practitioners in the field. It is now not as belittling or trivializing.