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Diminish vs. Shrink: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 11, 2023
"Diminish" means to reduce in size, importance, or intensity, while "shrink" specifically refers to becoming or making something smaller in size.

Key Differences

"Diminish" implies a reduction in some quality, such as size, value, or intensity, like the diminishing light at dusk. "Shrink" refers specifically to the process of becoming smaller in physical size, as in fabric shrinking when washed.
The use of diminish often involves abstract concepts, such as diminishing interest or diminishing returns in economics. Shrink, however, is more concrete, often used in physical contexts, like a sweater shrinking in the wash.
Diminish can imply a gradual decrease, like a diminishing supply of natural resources. Shrink often indicates a more immediate or noticeable reduction in size, like a balloon shrinking when the air is let out.
Diminish can be used metaphorically, such as diminishing someone's role in a project. Shrink, in contrast, is less often used metaphorically and is more literal, as in a psychiatrist known colloquially as a "shrink."
In music, diminish refers to reducing the volume or softening the tone, while in physical terms, shrink refers to the process of condensing or contracting, like heat causing plastic to shrink.

Comparison Chart


Reduce in size, importance, or intensity
Become or make smaller in size


Often abstract, like value or intensity
Generally physical, such as in size


Can imply gradual decrease
Often indicates immediate reduction

Metaphorical Use

Frequently used metaphorically
Less commonly used metaphorically


Diminishing interest, a diminishing sound
A shirt shrinking in the wash, plastic shrinking in heat

Diminish and Shrink Definitions


To decrease or cause to decrease in significance or value.
Her influence in the company diminished after the merger.


In psychiatry, colloquially refers to a psychiatrist.
She recommended a good shrink to help him deal with stress.


In music, to decrease in loudness or to soften the tone.
The symphony's volume diminished as it reached the tranquil ending.


To become smaller in size, often as a result of being exposed to heat or moisture.
The cotton t-shirt shrank after being washed in hot water.


To make or become less in size, importance, or intensity.
The noise from the construction site began to diminish after sunset.


To reduce in scope or scale.
The company had to shrink its budget due to financial constraints.


To reduce the quantity or availability of something.
Overfishing has diminished the number of certain fish species in the ocean.


To cause something to become smaller or to contract.
Heat shrinks plastic wrap, sealing the food tightly.


To lessen the authority, dignity, or reputation of someone or something.
Criticism can diminish a person's confidence.


To recoil or draw back, often due to fear or disgust.
He shrank away from the snake in fear.


To make smaller or less; reduce or lessen.


To become or appear to become smaller
The shadows shrank as the sun rose higher. The mountains shrank in the distance as we drove away.


To detract from the authority, reputation, or prestige of
"Her upper-class perfection ... somehow diminished me" (Shirley Abbott).


To become smaller from exposure to heat, moisture, or cold
The sweater shrank in the wash.


To cause to taper.


What does diminish mean?

Diminish means to reduce in size, intensity, or importance.

Can emotions diminish?

Yes, emotions like fear or anger can diminish over time.

Is diminish a physical or abstract concept?

Diminish can be both, but it is often used for abstract concepts.

Do clothes always shrink when washed?

Not all clothes shrink when washed; it depends on the fabric and washing conditions.

Can a person's role in a project diminish?

Yes, a person's role or influence in a project can diminish.

What fabrics are most likely to shrink?

Natural fibers like cotton, wool, and linen are more likely to shrink.

What causes materials to shrink?

Materials often shrink due to exposure to heat, moisture, or certain chemicals.

What is the meaning of shrink?

Shrink means to become smaller in size or to make something smaller.

How do you prevent clothes from shrinking?

To prevent shrinking, wash clothes in cold water and avoid high heat when drying.

Is diminishing always negative?

Not always; for example, diminishing stress or anxiety can be positive.

Can shrink be used metaphorically?

Shrink is less commonly used metaphorically, usually referring to literal size reduction.

Can confidence diminish?

Yes, confidence can diminish due to negative experiences or self-doubt.

Can shrinking be reversed?

Some shrinking can be reversed or minimized, particularly in certain fabrics, but it's often difficult.

Can shrinkage affect a business's profit?

Yes, shrinkage can negatively impact a business's profit by reducing available inventory for sale.

How does diminishing returns apply in economics?

In economics, diminishing returns refer to a point where additional input yields less and less output.

Can a company's profits diminish?

Yes, a company's profits can diminish due to various factors like market competition or poor sales.

Does diminishing mean disappearing?

No, diminishing means reducing, not necessarily disappearing entirely.

What is shrinkage in retail?

In retail, shrinkage refers to loss of inventory due to theft, damage, or error.

How does sound diminish with distance?

Sound diminishes with distance as the energy of the sound waves disperses.

What does it mean to shrink in fear?

To shrink in fear means to recoil or withdraw out of fear.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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