Definitions

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

  • n. Linguistics In certain languages, the inflection of nouns, pronouns, and adjectives in categories such as case, number, and gender.
  • n. Linguistics A class of words of one language with the same or a similar system of inflections, such as the first declension in Latin.
  • n. A descending slope; a descent.
  • n. A decline or decrease; deterioration: "States and empires have their periods of declension” ( Laurence Sterne).
  • n. A deviation, as from a standard or practice.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. : A way of categorizing nouns, pronouns, or adjectives according to the inflections they receive.
  • n. : The act of declining a word; the act of listing the inflections of a noun, pronoun or adjective in order.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The act or the state of declining; declination; descent; slope.
  • n. A falling off towards a worse state; a downward tendency; deterioration; decay
  • n. Act of courteously refusing; act of declining; a declinature; refusal.
  • n.
  • n. Inflection of nouns, adjectives, etc., according to the grammatical cases.
  • n. The form of the inflection of a word declined by cases
  • n. Rehearsing a word as declined.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A sloping downward; a declination; a descent; a slope; a declivity.
  • n. A sinking or falling into a lower or inferior state; deterioration; decline.
  • n. Refusal; non-acceptance.
  • n. In grammar: The inflection of nouns, pronouns, and adjectives; strictly, the deviation of other forms of such a word from that of its nominative case; in general, the formation of the various cases from the stem, or from the nominative singular as representing it: thus, in English, man, man's, men, men's; in Latin, rex, regis, regi, regem, rege, in the singular, and reges, regum, regibus, in the plural.
  • n. The rehearsing of a word as declined; the act of declining a word, as a noun.
  • n. A class of nouns declined on the same type: as, first or second declension; the five Latin declensions. Abbreviated decl.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a class of nouns or pronouns or adjectives in Indo-European languages having the same (or very similar) inflectional forms
  • n. the inflection of nouns and pronouns and adjectives in Indo-European languages
  • n. process of changing to an inferior state
  • n. a downward slope or bend

Etymologies

Middle English declenson, from Old French declinaison, from Latin dēclīnātiō, dēclīnātiōn-, grammatical declension, declination; see declination.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English declenson, from Middle French declinaison (French: déclinaison), from Latin declinatio (gen. declinationis) (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • On the other hand the action of the state-religion upon the state, the condition of Al-Islam during the reign of Al – Rashid, its declension from the primitive creed and its relation to Christianity and Christendom, require a somewhat extended notice.

    The Book of The Thousand Nights And A Night

  • It is the first declension from the level line of what is right that must be jealously regarded, for the inclined plane is so gentle, that it is easy to fancy we are going straight along.

    Zoe: The History of Two Lives

  • Health, strength, agility, and animal spirits, she may sorrowing feel diminish; but she hears everyone complain of similar failures, and she misses them unmurmuring, though not unlamenting; but of beauty, every declension is marked with something painful to self-love.

    Camilla: or, A Picture of Youth

  • That at least is the doctrine of Gibbon; but perhaps it would not be found altogether able to sustain itself against a closer and philosophic examination of the true elements involved in the idea of declension as applied to political bodies.

    The Caesars

  • But if it is righteousness thus to fuse together our divisive impulses and march with one mind through life, there is plainly one thing more unrighteous than all others, and one declension which is irretrievable and draws on the rest.

    Lay Morals

  • Such a reevaluation questions the view that the Second Great Awakening fits into a "declension" model in American religious history and forces a new understanding of the connection between this movement and American commercial markets.

    Conservapedia - Recent changes [en]

  • The days when they matter singe hair color; they cool touch, seat cushion declension from beaten haunches craving rest.

    Lawn Clippings

  • Redgrave also evokes beautifully the gradual declension into old age.

    Driving Miss Daisy – review

  • IMO, historical scholasticism, never, until its recent civil declension, has inculcated a concept of long-term, denial!?

    Think Progress » CBS Allows Focus On The Family Advocacy Ad During Super Bowl, But Bans Gay Dating Site Ad

  • I could barely remember those irregular third, fourth and fifth declension endings at the best oftimes.

    The Volokh Conspiracy » PC

Comments

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  • Well, adjectives don't decline in English. Some of them inflect for grade. What would be more useful, however, is teaching some linguistics as applied to English, and using the more general word 'paradigm' rather than making an unnecessary distinction between declension and conjugation.

    August 7, 2008

  • It is sad we do not teach declension of nouns and pronouns and adjectives in English. When I learned Latin in high school, declension was something I thought was mysterious and sexy and complex. I never knew of the word until it was introduced to me via Latin.

    August 7, 2008

  • Ooh, this word gives good mouthfeel.

    February 21, 2008