from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • intransitive verb To become or appear to become smaller.
  • intransitive verb To become smaller from exposure to heat, moisture, or cold.
  • intransitive verb To become reduced in amount or value; dwindle.
  • intransitive verb To move back or away, especially in fear.
  • intransitive verb To show reluctance; hesitate.
  • intransitive verb To cause to shrink.
  • noun The act of shrinking.
  • noun The degree to which something shrinks; shrinkage.
  • noun Slang A psychotherapist.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • The act of shrinking; a spontaneous drawing into less compass.
  • A contraction.
  • A shrug.
  • A diminution; a falling away; shrinkage.
  • A withdrawing from fear or horror; recoil.
  • To contract spontaneously; draw or be drawn into less length, breadth, or compass by an inherent property: as, woolen cloth shrinks in hot water; a flaxen or hempen line shrinks in a humid atmosphere.
  • To diminish; reduce.
  • To shrivel: become wrinkled by contraction, as the skin.
  • To draw back or retire, as from danger; recoil physically, as in fear, horror, or distrust; sometimes, simply, to go aside.
  • To decline or hesitate to act, as from fear; recoil morally or mentally, as in fear, horror, distrust, distaste, and the like.
  • To express fear, horror, or pain by shrugging or contracting the body; wince; flinch.
  • Synonyms See shrivel.
  • 4–6. To flinch, blench.
  • To cause to contract: as, to shrink flannel by immersing it in boiling water.
  • To make smaller; make appear smaller.
  • To withdraw: formerly with in.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • intransitive verb To wrinkle, bend, or curl; to shrivel; hence, to contract into a less extent or compass; to gather together; to become compacted.
  • intransitive verb To withdraw or retire, as from danger; to decline action from fear; to recoil, as in fear, horror, or distress.
  • intransitive verb rare To express fear, horror, or pain by contracting the body, or part of it; to shudder; to quake.
  • noun The act shrinking; shrinkage; contraction; also, recoil; withdrawal.
  • noun Coll. a psychiatrist.
  • transitive verb To cause to contract or shrink.
  • transitive verb obsolete To draw back; to withdraw.
  • transitive verb (Mach.) to fix (one piece or part) firmly around (another) by natural contraction in cooling, as a tire on a wheel, or a hoop upon a cannon, which is made slightly smaller than the part it is to fit, and expanded by heat till it can be slipped into place.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • verb ergative To contract, to (cause to) become smaller.
  • verb intransitive To cower or flinch.
  • verb intransitive, figuratively To attempt to avoid an unwanted or intimidating duty; as, to shrink from a task.
  • noun shrinkage; contraction; recoil
  • noun slang, sometimes pejorative A psychiatrist or therapist; a head-shrinker.

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

  • verb draw back, as with fear or pain
  • verb become smaller or draw together
  • verb reduce in size; reduce physically
  • verb decrease in size, range, or extent
  • noun a physician who specializes in psychiatry
  • verb wither, as with a loss of moisture


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

[Middle English shrinken, to wither, shrivel up, from Old English scrincan; see sker- in Indo-European roots.]


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word shrink.



Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • "Scientists have discovered that drinking just three cups of coffee a day can make women's breasts shrink. Nearly 300 women were surveyed about their bust measurements and how many cups of coffee they drank in an average day. According to researchers, three cups a day was enough to start making breasts shrink, with the effects increasing for every cup drunk."

    - 'Drinking three cups of coffee a day 'shrinks women's breasts'',, 22 Oct 2008.

    October 24, 2008

  • But what about men's breasts?

    October 24, 2008

  • Uhhh, are we in manboob territory here?

    October 24, 2008

  • If you're coffee is 'grand enough to trot a mouse across'- you only need one cup a day!

    There's a cup joke in there somewhere...

    October 24, 2008

  • I was attempting to draw out palooka, bilby. ;->

    You're right--there must be several cup jokes here. If only we could find them.

    October 24, 2008

  • Oh. Man, I wouldn't dare touch palooka's boobs.

    October 24, 2008

  • You wouldn't have to because he doesn't have any. Or so he claims.

    October 24, 2008

  • *switches to tea*

    October 24, 2008

  • How did "shrink" come to mean a psychiatrist?

    March 28, 2009