I think that to tank means to become strong, huge in height and weight. But I can't place the same meaning in this context:

When the economy tanks as it did in the recent recession,

How does the economy become stronger in a recession ?

From www.forbes.com

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    to fall hard and fast, in contrast to a soft or parachute landing – Henry May 2 '15 at 10:53
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    Has EL&U become an online dictionary service? – Mari-Lou A May 2 '15 at 11:26
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    @AymaneShuichi: Please consult a dictionary before posting here. General reference questions will probably be closed. If you wonder why a word has a particular meaning, do some online research, if not satisfied, then post here and include your research. – Tushar Raj May 2 '15 at 11:26
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    @AymaneShuichi: For future reference, even if you fail to find something, you should include links to what your research yielded in your question. – Tushar Raj May 2 '15 at 11:49
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    @AymaneShuichi: (A) Your link defines a noun, not a verb. (B)You looked in urban dictionary before a real one? Are you kidding me? – Tushar Raj May 2 '15 at 16:13

To tank meaning :

(Informal) To suffer a sudden decline or failure: The stock market tanked yesterday. (The Free Dictionary)

is a quite recent usage:

to tank ( Etynonline)

  • Meaning "to lose or fail" attested from 1976, originally in tennis jargon, specifically in an interview with Billie Jean King in "Life" magazine, Sept. 22, 1967:

"When our men don't feel like trying," she says, "They 'tank' [give up]. I never tanked a match in my life and I never saw a girl do it. The men do it all the time in minor tournaments when they don't feel like hustling. You have to be horribly competitive to win in big-time tennis."

Sometimes said to be from boxing, in some sense, perhaps from the notion of "taking a dive," but evidence for this is wanting.

  • The tennis reference seems different from the economy one, in that Ms. King is speaking of a deliberate lack of vigor or energy. That sounds more like "throwing a match" (or as another commented, like "taking a dive" in a boxing match). What's left unexplained is how, when (and whether) the intentional meaning led to the passive one (an economy cannot be described as intentionally falling!) – Brian Hitchcock May 3 '15 at 9:50
  • @BrianHitchcock - I think it is an extension of the idea that tank conveys in the context, that of losing or failing as etymonline suggests. – user66974 May 3 '15 at 9:54
  • So I guess the intentional sense came after the passive sense. Right? – Brian Hitchcock May 3 '15 at 10:21

For a stock to tank, or the economy to tank, means that it drops in price or strength. It is financial market slang, maybe more accurately, jargon. Here is one of many examples of "tank" on Money SE, Why do put option prices go higher when the underlying stock tanks (drops)?

"Tanking" has been in use as trading jargon since the 1980's or perhaps earlier. It is very common spoken usage, less so in writing.

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