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a reduction or decrease in numbers, size, or strength:
Our club has had a high rate of attrition because so many members have moved away.
a wearing down or weakening of resistance, especially as a result of continuous pressure or harassment:
The enemy surrounded the town and conducted a war of attrition.
a gradual reduction in work force without firing of personnel, as when workers resign or retire and are not replaced.
the act of rubbing against something; friction.
a wearing down or away by friction; abrasion.
Theology. imperfect contrition.
See under (def 2).
Contemporary Examples

The hard, attritional fight comes in holding the ground often relatively cheaply taken.
The Marja Media War Patrick Hennessey February 16, 2010

This was a long, gutsy, attritional game played by two flawed teams who failed to force enough shots on goal.
Argentina Drops the Netherlands on Penalties in World Cup Semifinal Tunku Varadarajan July 9, 2014

the act of wearing away or the state of being worn away, as by friction
constant wearing down to weaken or destroy (often in the phrase war of attrition)
Also called natural wastage. a decrease in the size of the workforce of an organization achieved by not replacing employees who retire or resign
(geography) the grinding down of rock particles by friction during transportation by water, wind, or ice Compare abrasion (sense 3), corrasion
(theol) sorrow for sin arising from fear of damnation, esp as contrasted with contrition, which arises purely from love of God

1540s, “abrasion, a scraping,” from Latin attritionem (nominative attritio), literally “a rubbing against,” noun of action from past participle stem of atterere “to wear, rub away,” figuratively “to destroy, waste,” from ad- “to” (see ad-) + terere “to rub” (see throw (v.)). The earliest sense in English is from Scholastic theology (late 14c.), “sorrow for sin merely out of fear of punishment,” a minor irritation, and thus less than contrition. The sense of “wearing down of military strength” is a World War I coinage (1914). Figurative use by 1930.

attrition at·tri·tion (ə-trĭsh’ən)
A wearing away by friction or rubbing, such as the loss of tooth structure caused by abrasive foods or grinding of the teeth.


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