Verb > Abate

Verb – Abate

This word has Latin roots that mean “to beat to,” as in “to beat back, to make less powerful, or to become smaller.”

To become smaller” is the meaning that survived as the Latin abbatere became the English “abate.”

When something abates, it decreases or shrinks. In other words, to abate is to become smaller, to ease off, or to become less intense.

Part of speech:
It’s a verb, the intransitive kind: “The crisis abated;” “The war shows no signs of abating.”

When you need a transitive verb, use “bate” instead, which arose as a shortened form of “abate” and still survives today, mostly in the phrase bated breath.” (“She waited with bated breath for her test score.”) But you can also talk about bating other things–beating them back, making them smaller or less intense–like feelings or hopes.

Other forms:
abated, abating, abatement

how to use it:
When we use the word “abate,” we’re often being serious or formal.

It’s usually something bad or destructive that abates, and so it’s usually good when things abate, like wars, battles, crises, conflicts, disputes, storms, hurricane winds, painful medical symptoms, etc.

Often we complain about something not abating, or about something showing no signs (or few signs) of abating.

Although it’s usually bad things that abate, you can also say that good or neutral things abate, hinting that those things are powerful or forceful–like storms or hurricane winds. For example, we can say that the demand for a product is abating, or that the public’s fascination with some scandal is abating.

“More than 200 people were arrested in one of the worst outbreaks of violence in recent weeks as around five months of protests show no signs of abating.”
— Jessie Pang and Clare Jim, Reuters, 2 November 2019

“Mitt Romney entered his 400th consecutive hour of uneasy chuckling Monday, apparently stuck in an endless loop of discomfort and apprehension that so far has shown no sign of abating.”
— The Onion, 6 August 2012