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Waxing vs. Waning: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 6, 2023
Waxing refers to the increasing or growing phase of the moon, while waning indicates its decreasing or reducing phase post-full moon.

Key Differences

In the realm of astronomy and celestial observation, the terms waxing and waning are critical. Waxing alludes to the process where the illuminated part of the moon visible from Earth is getting larger. This phase progresses from a new moon to a full moon, revealing an enlarging portion of its lit section each night. Waning, on the other hand, pertains to the process where the illuminated part we can observe diminishes in size, transitioning from a full moon to a new moon.
Waxing moon phases include several sub-phases, which encompass the waxing crescent, first quarter, and waxing gibbous phases. During these times, observers on Earth will see a gradual increase in the illuminated part of the moon night by night. Waning moon phases, contrastingly, include the waning gibbous, last quarter, and waning crescent phases, which are characterized by a sequential decrease in the moon’s illuminated visible surface.
In various cultures, the waxing moon is often associated with growth, prosperity, and expansion, whereas the waning moon typically symbolizes a time for release, reflection, and decline. Both phases have been symbolically pivotal in numerous mythologies and religious practices, each representing the cyclic nature of time and life. Moreover, waxing and waning moon phases influence tides, animal behaviors, and even agricultural practices in some cultures.
Waxing and waning also find their metaphorical uses in the English language, wherein waxing might describe something increasing or growing, such as someone waxing poetic about a topic they are passionate about. Waning, conversely, can be used metaphorically to describe something that is diminishing or decreasing, such as waning interest or waning patience, symbolizing a reduction or decay in the state or amount of something.
In conclusion, though waxing and waning are fundamentally opposite in meaning, they are two halves of a cyclical process, representing the eternal and rhythmic ebb and flow observed not only in celestial bodies but also metaphorically in various aspects of life and nature.

Comparison Chart


Growing or increasing in illumination or size.
Decreasing or reducing in illumination or size.

Phase Direction

New Moon to Full Moon.
Full Moon to New Moon.


Often related to growth, rejuvenation, and creation.
Typically associated with decline, release, and end.

Example Phase

Waxing Gibbous.
Waning Crescent.

Metaphorical Use

Used to describe something that's growing/increasing.
Used to describe something that's reducing/diminishing.

Waxing and Waning Definitions


In a non-astronomical context, waxing can mean increasing or growing.
His waxing enthusiasm for the project was evident to everyone.


In a general context, waning refers to something reducing or diminishing in size, intensity, or strength.
His waning energy became apparent as he slowed down during the hike.


Waxing can indicate applying a substance to protect and shine a surface.
He spent the afternoon waxing his vintage car to enhance its shine.


Waning can metaphorically imply the gradual ending or dying down of an event or situation.
The waning days of summer brought a beautiful, gentle coolness to the air.


Waxing relates to the moon's phase when it's gradually becoming fuller.
The waxing moon illuminated the night progressively each evening.


In a more abstract sense, waning might describe a lessening or lowering in condition or state.
The team’s waning morale after a series of losses was evident in their performance.


Waxing might also describe a form of semi-permanent hair removal.
She scheduled a waxing appointment before her beach vacation.


Waning describes the phase of the moon during which its visible surface is decreasing.
As the days passed, the waning moon gradually vanished into darkness.


In a literary sense, waxing might refer to speaking in an increasingly fervent manner.
The poet started waxing eloquent about the serene beauty of nature.


It might also describe a decrease in power or importance in a particular context.
The waning influence of the organization was noticeable in the community.


Any of various natural, oily or greasy heat-sensitive substances, consisting of hydrocarbons or esters of fatty acids that are insoluble in water but soluble in nonpolar organic solvents.


To decrease gradually in size, number, strength, or intensity
Interest in the subject waned.




To show a progressively smaller illuminated area, as the moon does in passing from full to new.




To approach an end
The day began to wane.


Can waning refer to things other than the moon?

Yes, waning can describe any phenomenon or thing that is decreasing or diminishing.

What does waning signify?

Waning describes the phase where the moon's visible, illuminated portion is gradually decreasing.

What does waxing mean in astronomy?

Waxing refers to the moon’s phase when its visible, illuminated part is gradually increasing.

Is waxing always related to the moon?

No, waxing can also be used metaphorically to describe something increasing or growing in other contexts.

What comes after a waxing gibbous phase?

The full moon follows the waxing gibbous phase.

Is the waning phase moving towards a beginning or an end?

The waning phase is moving towards a new beginning, symbolized by the new moon.

Can waxing and waning concepts be applied to planets?

No, waxing and waning specifically describe the phases of the moon, not planets.

Which phase follows the waning crescent?

A new moon follows the waning crescent phase.

How long does a waxing or waning moon phase last?

Each waxing and waning phase lasts approximately 14.77 days.

Can waning be used to describe a diminishment in non-physical entities, like power?

Yes, waning can metaphorically describe the diminishment of intangible things like power or influence.

Are waxing and waning used in the Southern Hemisphere the same way as in the Northern Hemisphere?

Yes, but the illuminated sides of the moon appear reversed in each hemisphere.

Does waning relate to darkness?

Yes, waning involves a decrease in the moon's illuminated visible surface, leading towards darkness.

Can we say the waxing phase is moving towards a climax?

Yes, the waxing phase moves towards a climax, which is the full moon.

Is there a specific time to observe waxing or waning moon phases?

No specific time, but waxing phases are more prominent in the evening, while waning phases are often more visible in the early morning.

Can waxing describe the increase of intangible elements?

Yes, waxing can describe the increase in non-physical entities, like enthusiasm or interest.

How does a waxing moon appear in the sky?

A waxing moon appears to grow larger night by night.

How does a waning moon appear?

A waning moon appears to shrink or reduce in size night after night.

What symbolizes a waxing moon in various cultures?

A waxing moon often symbolizes growth, renewal, and expansion in numerous cultures.

What does a waning moon typically symbolize?

The waning moon typically symbolizes release, withdrawal, and decline in various cultures and beliefs.

Is waxing related to increasing light?

Yes, waxing involves an increase in the moon's illuminated visible surface.
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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