Try Our Apps


Supposedly vs. Supposably


[eb] /ɛb/
the flowing back of the tide as the water returns to the sea (opposed to flood, flow).
a flowing backward or away; decline or decay:
the ebb of a once great nation.
a point of decline:
His fortunes were at a low ebb.
verb (used without object)
to flow back or away, as the water of a tide (opposed to flow).
to decline or decay; fade away:
His life is gradually ebbing.
Origin of ebb
before 1000; (noun) Middle English eb(be), Old English ebba; cognate with Old Frisian ebba, Dutch eb(be), German Ebbe ebb, Old Norse efja place where water backs up; (v.) Middle English ebben, Old English ebbian, derivative of the noun; akin to off
Related forms
unebbed, adjective
unebbing, adjective
4. subside, abate, recede, retire. 5. dwindle, diminish, decrease. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
Cite This Source
Examples from the Web for ebb
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Three or four days afterwards Columbine dropped down stream on the ebb.

    Wyndham's Pal Harold Bindloss
  • He acquired a general knowledge of the ebb and flow of popular stocks.

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
  • He saw the poor man no more; the body was found, a fortnight after, at the ebb, on the Ploc-ard side of the head of Loch Ewe.

    Gairloch In North-West Ross-Shire John H. Dixon, F.S.A. Scot
  • And again and again fell the word, like the ebb of a dying sea.

    Howards End E. M. Forster
  • The blood mounted to her face, to ebb again upon the instant, leaving it paler than it had been.

    Bardelys the Magnificent Rafael Sabatini
British Dictionary definitions for ebb


verb (intransitive)
(of tide water) to flow back or recede Compare flow (sense 9)
to fall away or decline
  1. the flowing back of the tide from high to low water or the period in which this takes place
  2. (as modifier): the ebb tide Compare flood (sense 3)
at a low ebb, in a state or period of weakness, lack of vigour, or decline
Word Origin
Old English ebba; related to Old Norse efja river bend, Gothic ibuks moving backwards, Old High German ippihōn to roll backwards, Middle Dutch ebbe ebb
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
Cite This Source
Word Origin and History for ebb

Old English ebba "ebb, low tide," perhaps from Proto-Germanic *abjon (cf. Old Frisian ebba, Old Saxon ebbiunga, Middle Dutch ebbe, Dutch eb, German Ebbe), from *ab-, from PIE root *apo- "off, away" (see apo-). Figurative sense of "decline, decay" is c.1400.


Old English ebbian, from the root of ebb (n.). Related: Ebbed; ebbing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Cite This Source
Idioms and Phrases with ebb


In addition to the idioms beginning with ebb ebb and flow also see: at a low ebb
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Cite This Source

Word of the Day

Difficulty index for ebb

Many English speakers likely know this word

Word Value for ebb

Scrabble Words With Friends

Nearby words for ebb