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.

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

unebbed, adjective
unebbing, adjective

4. subside, abate, recede, retire. 5. dwindle, diminish, decrease.
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
ebb (ɛb)
1.  Compare flow (of tide water) to flow back or recede
2.  to fall away or decline
3.  a.  the flowing back of the tide from high to low water or the period in which this takes place
 b.  Compare flood (as modifier): the ebb tide
4.  at a low ebb in a state or period of weakness, lack of vigour, or decline
[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 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin & History

O.E. ebba, perhaps from P.Gmc. *abjon, from *ab-, from PIE base *apo- "off, away" (see apo-). Figurative sense of "decline, decay" is c.1400. Related: Ebbed; ebbing.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
The ocean, of course, no longer ebbs and flows along this boundary.
Shared governance is a negotiated process with significant ebbs and flows.
The time has come to set out in detail what must be done to restore the public
  finances as soon as recession ebbs.
Look through the evidence of geologic history and note the ebbs and flow of
  climate and sea level rise and falls.
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