Did you know?

Click any word in a definition or example to find the entry for that word

sink - definition and synonyms

What are red words?

90% of the time, speakers of English use just 7,500 words in speech and writing. These words appear in red, and are graded with stars. One-star words are frequent, two-star words are more frequent, and three-star words are the most frequent.

Thesaurus diagram

The thesaurus of synonyms and related words is fully integrated into the dictionary. Click on the thesaurus category heading under the button in an entry to see the synonyms and related words for that meaning.

verb     sink pronunciation in British English
Word Forms
present tense
present participlesinking
past tensesank
past participlesunk
  1. 1
    [intransitive] to disappear below the surface of the water

    The ship sank off the coast of Newfoundland during a storm.

    Do you think the cork will float or sink?

    1. a.
      [transitive] to make something, especially a boat, disappear below the surface of the water

      The enemy sank three ships last night.

    2. b.
      [intransitive] to go below the surface of a soft substance
      sink into:

      Our feet sank into the mud as we walked.

  2. 2
    [intransitive] to move to a lower level

    The water level in the lake had sunk by several feet.

    The porch on the old house was beginning to sink.

  3. 3
    [intransitive] to fall, sit, or lie down
    sink to:

    The wounded deer sank to the ground.

    sink to your knees:

    He sank to his knees and begged for forgiveness.

    sink into:

    When I got home, all I wanted to do was sink into a hot bath.

  4. 4
    [intransitive] to become worse
    sinking fast:

    The patient is sinking fast and may not last through the night.

    sink into crisis/chaos:

    Without a stable central government, the country is sinking into crisis.

    sink into despair:

    As the search went on, Simon began to sink into despair.

    1. a.
      if your spirits sink, you become sad

      After reading the letter, my spirits sank even further.

  5. 5
    [intransitive] when the sun sinks, it gets lower in the sky until it disappears

    The sun was sinking in the west.

  6. 6
    [intransitive] to go down in value or amount
    sink to:

    Agricultural production had sunk to its lowest level in years.

  7. 7
    [intransitive] to become quiet

    Their voices sank to a whisper.

  8. 8
    [intransitive] to do something wrong
    sink to (doing) something:

    How could you sink to stealing money from your own mother?

    sink so low (as to):

    I never thought he would sink so low as to lie to me about it.

  9. 9
    [transitive] to push something sharp into something solid

    The cat sank its claws into my leg.

  10. 10
    [transitive] to invest money in something because you hope you will make more money

    We’ve sunk several thousand dollars into the project so far.

  11. 11
    [transitive] in games such as golf or pool, to put a ball into a hole

    He only has to sink the pink ball to win the game.

  12. 12
    [transitive] British informal to drink alcoholic drinks

phrasal verbs

  • Facebook
  • Twitter


a lifestyle focussing on simple pleasures such as comfort and cosiness in the home, and spending time with friends and family

BuzzWord Article

Open Dictionary


a form of location that involves the underwater detonation of a bomb which causes sound waves that are picked up by ships

add a word


A must for anyone with an interest in the changing face of language. The Macmillan Dictionary blog explores English as it is spoken around the world today.

global English and language change from our blog
Macmillan learn live love play