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[tey-per] /ˈteɪ pər/
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,
  1. to become gradually more slender toward one end.
  2. 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
Related forms
taperer, noun
taperingly, adverb
untapered, adjective
untapering, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for tapered
  • Plastic foam flats with tapered individual cells are sold by nurseries and through seed catalogs.
  • They have a wide, scaly, gray body and a tapered head.
  • One was that the enormous initial demand for these sub-prime loans tapered off pretty quickly.
  • Or to vary the illustration, consider a long steel rod that is tapered toward one end.
  • Were you to graph these figures, you'd get a curve that sloped sharply at first, then tapered off.
  • In the fifth, and final stage, the spray vortex weakens and the funnel becomes shorter and maybe more tapered.
  • Sprint's build is slim, with a tapered silhouette that fits comfortably in the palm of your hand.
  • He dipped his shoulders, produced a tight grin that tapered to a grimace at both corners of his mouth.
  • Light that fits cannot escape the tapered mirror crevices of the two sharp sides, with lossy reflection at each bounce.
  • The cornetfish has an elongated and tapered head that can grow to one-third the length of its body.
British Dictionary definitions for tapered


to become or cause to become narrower towards one end: the spire tapers to a point
(often foll by off) to become or cause to become smaller or less significant
a thin candle
a thin wooden or waxed strip for transferring a flame; spill
a narrowing
(engineering) (in conical parts) the amount of variation in the diameter per unit of length
any feeble source of light
Derived Forms
taperer, noun
tapering, adjective
taperingly, adverb
Word Origin
Old English tapor, probably from Latin papӯruspapyrus (from its use as a wick)
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
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Word Origin and History for tapered



Old English tapur, taper "candle," not found outside English, possibly a dissimilated borrowing from Latin papyrus (see papyrus), which was used in Medieval Latin and some Romance languages for "wick of a candle" (e.g. Italian papijo "wick"), because these often were made from the pith of papyrus. Cf. also German kerze "candle," from Old High German charza, from Latin charta, from Greek khartes "papyrus, roll made from papyrus, wick made from pith of papyrus."


"shoot up like a flame or spire," 1580s, from taper (n.). Sense of "gradually decrease in size, force, etc." first recorded c.1600. Related: Tapered; tapering.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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