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From Middle English shortnen, schortenen, equivalent to short +‎ -en (verbal suffix). In some senses, a continuation (in altered form) of Middle English schorten (to make short, shorten), from Old English sċortian (to become short), from Proto-Germanic *skurtōną (to shorten).



shorten (third-person singular simple present shortens, present participle shortening, simple past and past participle shortened)

  1. (transitive) To make shorter; to abbreviate.
    • 1877, Anna Sewell, Black Beauty Chapter 22[1]
      York came round to our heads and shortened the rein himself, one hole I think; every little makes a difference, be it for better or worse, and that day we had a steep hill to go up.
  2. (intransitive) To become shorter.
  3. (transitive) To make deficient (as to); to deprive (of).
    • Dryden
      Spoiled of his nose, and shortened of his ears.
  4. (transitive) To make short or friable, as pastry, with butter, lard, etc.
  5. (transitive) To reduce or diminish in amount, quantity, or extent; to lessen.
    to shorten an allowance of food
    • Dryden
      Here, where the subject is so fruitful, I am shortened by my chain.
  6. (nautical, transitive) To take in the slack of (a rope).
  7. (nautical, transitive) To reduce (sail) by taking it in.