from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • transitive v. To lose (personnel, for example) by attrition.
  • transitive v. To destroy or kill (troops, for example) by use of firepower: "Pro-active counterattacks are a useful way to attrit the enemy” ( John H. Cushman, Jr.)

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To wear down through attrition, especially mechanical attrition
  • v. To engage in attrition; to quit or drop out
  • v. To be reduced in quantity through attrition
  • v. To lose, or to kill troops by attrition due to sustained firepower


Back-formation from attrition.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Back-formation from attrition. (Wiktionary)



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  • Wear the Cong down, and he'll quit... Attrit him.
    Atlantic Monthly, 1969

    'Attrit' (back-formation from 'attrition') is a recent variant, apparently US military, of the older verb 'attrite' "rub; wear down", which is known from 1726 (1917 in military context).

    August 4, 2008