Word: Attenuated

I first ran across attenuated in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest many years ago and have never been able to remember what it means out of context. To attenuate is to make something thin, weak, or dispersed. Wallace uses the word to describe light and sound. The word comes from the Latin “tenuis” meaning “thin” and is related to “tenuous,” whose meaning I do remember easily and which link I hope will help to cement “attenuated” in my vocabulary. Although “tensile” comes to us from a different Latin root (though I gather the same Indo-European one), it’s another similar word I have a visual association with and consistent grasp of.

Silly sample sentence: At ten, you waited, attenuated, for your breakfast, and then you ate it.

6 thoughts on “Word: Attenuated

  1. captquirk says:

    Daryl, the way I think of attenuated is in relation to a signal, such as a radio signal that over time attenuates. To attenuate, for me, it to peter out, as it were. For instance, my energy and enthusiasm for the project attenuated as time wore on.

    • captquirk says:

      And if I may, I’ll say I am pleased with your exploration of words that interest you. I’ll happily follow along as you meander through the dictionary.

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