atrophy

Wearing a cast on a broken leg can cause atrophy, or withering, in the leg, because it is immobilized and gets no exercise.

Appearing in English in the 17th century, the word atrophy originally described a lack of nourishment. Atrophy occurs in parts of the body that can't move or be "fed" because of disease or injury. It also is used to describe things that go dull through lack of use, like skills in sports or artistic creativity. The (unrelated) word "trophy" refers to something that sits on a shelf and is admired, while atrophy is a condition of being "shelved," or made inactive and lifeless.

Definitions of atrophy
  1. noun
    a decrease in size of an organ caused by disease or disuse
    synonyms: wasting, wasting away
    see moresee less
    types:
    show 4 types...
    hide 4 types...
    amyotrophia, amyotrophy
    progressive wasting of muscle tissues
    tabes
    wasting of the body during a chronic disease
    kraurosis
    atrophy and shriveling of the skin or mucous membrane
    kraurosis vulvae
    kraurosis of the vulva; often a precancerous lesion
    type of:
    symptom
    (medicine) any sensation or change in bodily function that is experienced by a patient and is associated with a particular disease
  2. noun
    any weakening or degeneration (especially through lack of use)
    synonyms: withering
    see moresee less
    type of:
    weakening
    becoming weaker
  3. verb
    undergo atrophy
    “Muscles that are not used will atrophy
    see moresee less
    type of:
    shrink, shrivel, shrivel up, wither
    wither, as with a loss of moisture
Word Family