1. A rubbing away or wearing down by friction.
a. A gradual reduction in number or strength because of stress or military action.
b. A gradual reduction in personnel or membership because of resignation, retirement, or death, often viewed in contrast to reduction from layoffs.
3. Roman Catholic Church Repentance for sin motivated by fear of punishment rather than by love of God.
[Middle English attricioun, regret, breaking, from Old French attrition, abrasion, from Late Latin attrītiō, attrītiōn-, act of rubbing against, from Latin attrītus, past participle of atterere, to rub against : ad-, against; see AD- + terere, to rub; see terə-1 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2019 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.