"to make thin, to make less," 1520s, from Latin attenuatus, past participle of attenuare "to make thin, lessen, diminish," from assimilated form of ad "to" (see ad-) + tenuare "make thin," from tenuis "thin," from PIE root *ten- "to stretch." Related: Attenuated; attenuating. Earlier was Middle English attenuen "to make thin (in consistency)," early 15c.
Entries linking to attenuate
word-forming element expressing direction toward or in addition to, from Latin ad "to, toward" in space or time; "with regard to, in relation to," as a prefix, sometimes merely emphatic, from PIE root *ad- "to, near, at."
Simplified to a- before sc-, sp- and st-; modified to ac- before many consonants and then re-spelled af-, ag-, al-, etc., in conformity with the following consonant (as in affection, aggression). Also compare ap- (1).
In Old French, reduced to a- in all cases (an evolution already underway in Merovingian Latin), but written forms in French were refashioned after Latin in 14c. and English did likewise 15c. in words it had picked up from Old French. In many cases pronunciation followed the shift. Over-correction at the end of the Middle Ages in French and then English "restored" the -d- or a doubled consonant to some words that never had it (accursed, afford). The process went further in England than in France, where the vernacular sometimes resisted the pedantic, resulting in English adjourn, advance, address, advertisement (Modern French ajourner, avancer, adresser, avertissement). In modern word-formation sometimes ad- and ab- are regarded as opposites, but this was not in classical Latin.
It forms all or part of: abstain; abstention; abstinence; abstinent; atelectasis; attend; attenuate; attenuation; baritone; catatonia; catatonic; contain; contend; continue; detain; detente; detention; diatonic; distend; entertain; extend; extenuate; hypotenuse; hypotonia; intend; intone (v.1) "to sing, chant;" isotonic; lieutenant; locum-tenens; maintain; monotony; neoteny; obtain; ostensible; peritoneum; pertain; pertinacious; portend; pretend; rein; retain; retinue; sitar; subtend; sustain; tantra; telangiectasia; temple (n.1) "building for worship;" temple (n.2) "flattened area on either side of the forehead;" temporal; tenable; tenacious; tenacity; tenant; tend (v.1) "to incline, to move in a certain direction;" tendency; tender (adj.) "soft, easily injured;" tender (v.) "to offer formally;" tendon; tendril; tenement; tenesmus; tenet; tennis; tenon; tenor; tense (adj.) "stretched tight;" tensile; tension; tensor; tent (n.) "portable shelter;" tenterhooks; tenuous; tenure; tetanus; thin; tone; tonic.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit tantram "loom," tanoti "stretches, lasts," tanuh "thin," literally "stretched out;" Persian tar "string;" Lithuanian tankus "compact," i.e. "tightened;" Greek teinein "to stretch," tasis "a stretching, tension," tenos "sinew," tetanos "stiff, rigid," tonos "string," hence "sound, pitch;" Latin tenere "to hold, grasp, keep, have possession, maintain," tendere "to stretch," tenuis "thin, rare, fine;" Old Church Slavonic tento "cord;" Old English þynne "thin."