taper off


1 [tey-per]
verb (used without object)
to become smaller or thinner toward one end.
to grow gradually lean.
verb (used with object)
to make gradually smaller toward one end.
to reduce gradually.
gradual diminution of width or thickness in an elongated object.
gradual decrease of force, capacity, etc.
anything having a tapering form, as a spire or obelisk.
a candle, especially a very slender one.
a long wick coated with wax, tallow, or the like, as for use in lighting candles or gas.
Verb phrases
taper off,
to become gradually more slender toward one end.
to cease by degrees; decrease; diminish: The storm is beginning to taper off now. I haven't stopped smoking entirely, but I'm tapering off to three cigarettes a day.

before 900; Middle English: wax candle, Old English, variant of tapur, dissimilated variant of *papur paper

taperer, noun
taperingly, adverb
untapered, adjective
untapering, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
Cite This Source Link To taper off
World English Dictionary
taper (ˈteɪpə)
1.  to become or cause to become narrower towards one end: the spire tapers to a point
2.  (often foll by off) to become or cause to become smaller or less significant
3.  a thin candle
4.  a thin wooden or waxed strip for transferring a flame; spill
5.  a narrowing
6.  engineering (in conical parts) the amount of variation in the diameter per unit of length
7.  any feeble source of light
[Old English tapor, probably from Latin papӯruspapyrus (from its use as a wick)]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
Cite This Source
Word Origin & History

O.E. tapur, taper "candle," not found outside Eng., possibly a dissimilated borrowing from L. papyrus (see papyrus), which was used in M.L. and some Romance languages for "wick of a candle" (e.g. It. papijo "wick"), since these often were made from the pith of papyrus. Cf.
also Ger. kerze "candle," from O.H.G. charza, from L. charta, from Gk. khartes "papyrus, roll made from papyrus, wick made from pith of papyrus." The verb meaning "to shoot up like a flame or spire" is attested from 1589; sense of "gradually decrease in size, force, etc." first recorded 1610.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Cite This Source
American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

taper off

  1. Become thinner or narrower at one end, as in The road began to taper off until it was just a narrow path. [c. 1600]

  2. Diminish or lessen gradually, end by degrees, as in The storm finally tapered off. [Mid-1800s]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
Cite This Source
Copyright © 2014 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature