- 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.
- (of tide water) to flow back or recedeCompare flow (def. 9)
- to fall away or decline
- the flowing back of the tide from high to low water or the period in which this takes place
- (as modifier)the ebb tide Compare flood (def. 3)
- at a low ebb in a state or period of weakness, lack of vigour, or decline
Old English ebbian, from the root of ebb (n.). Related: Ebbed; ebbing.
Old English ebba “ebb, low tide,” perhaps from Proto-Germanic *abjon (cf. Old Frisian ebba, Old Saxon ebbiunga, Middle Dutch ebbe, Dutch eb, German Ebbe), from *ab-, from PIE root *apo- “off, away” (see apo-). Figurative sense of “decline, decay” is c.1400.
In addition to the idioms beginning with ebb
- ebb and flow
- at a low ebb