I'm a non-native speaker and was looking for a single word which has the same (or close to the same) meaning as 'decays into' – where something becomes less than it was by losing (little) parts of itself which turn into something else.

Does such a word exist?

Some more info on the context in which this word would be used. For a fictional/fantasy-ish story, we have a diagram where four 'elements' and 3 'principles' (earth, fire, sulpher, etc) are (inter-)connected with each other. The interaction between each of these elements and principles are all described by a single words, such as for example: 'strengthens' and 'conquers' and 'absorbs'. All these interactions are single words (a fact that is also embedded into the backstory) one of these interactions could best be described as 'decays into', but since this is not a single word, it has to be either reworded by a synonym (the preferred option) or replaced by something else.

Hope this clarifies the question enough.

  • 5
    You'll be wanting 28 letters so that we can have more words next. 'Decay into' works fine. Commented Apr 13, 2015 at 9:46
  • Could you give an example sentence with a blank where you want your word, please? "Decay" is a technical term for radioactivity, and one element does decay into another (by the emission of alpha particles, say).
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Apr 13, 2015 at 9:47
  • 2
    The 'into' rather implies you're about to tell us where the decay goes: "Carbon-13 decays into nitrogen-12 and boron-12." If you want shorter, "decays to" is also used. If you don't want to tell us the decay product, just use "decays". Commented Apr 13, 2015 at 11:42
  • @EdwinAshworth, thanks for the constructive comment.
    – Monika
    Commented Apr 13, 2015 at 14:03

2 Answers 2


With the clarification, it seems you want a transitive verb,and the simplest one I can think of is become:

Element A becomes element B.

It does, however, not cover the sense of decay, or breaking down. I doubt you will find a single verb that has a transitive meaning (explaining its relation to an object) while at the same time carrying an intransitive meaning (describing what the verb does to the subject)!

However, if you explain in context the process of A becoming B, I'm not sure you need the confirmation of "degeneration" in the used verb.

  • 'becomes' is rather neutral, the degeneration is part of what we are looking for. Some elements 'break down' other elements against their 'will'. (I'm aware this sounds rather non-scientific, but if you look at late 18th century texts, this is how things where actually thought of back then).
    – Monika
    Commented Apr 14, 2015 at 9:59
  • @Monika If between two elements, A decays into B, is that essentially different from "B absorbs A"? You mentioned absorbs in your question. Is the word you are looking for not essentially the opposite, or passive, form of that? If A decays into B, it becomes B, so A is absorbed (or assimilated, more aggressively) by B. The problem is that you want a transitive verb, but you are concerned about the effect on the subject. That is a tough one, I can't think of an example where that works.
    – oerkelens
    Commented Apr 14, 2015 at 10:40
  • A -> B is different from B -> A, or at least, the word describes a different aspect of the interaction. As an example: dissolves is set opposite of dilutes. However, as you nicely pointed out, all interactions other than 'decays into' only say something about what A does to B. In the case of 'decays into' the interaction says something about both B and A. Maybe it is just not possible and the answer to the OP is 'No'?
    – Monika
    Commented Apr 15, 2015 at 10:19

Depending on the context, degenerate or degrade may be usable.

  • 2
    Wouldn't these similarly need the preposition OP so dislikes? Commented Apr 13, 2015 at 11:31
  • "'decays into' works fine'" ;-)
    – immutabl
    Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 9:18

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