The excerpt that follows comes from the article The Honest Man by Peter Lyon from the American Heritage magazine.

He (Peter Cooper) received only one per cent of the vote. Yet time has treated his ideas most kindly. For in retrospect the impression will not down that, so far from being ludicrous, those ideas were sane, intelligent, liberal, and practical.

I'm flummoxed by the use of "down" here. Could it mean something like "deny"? (I cannot find an apt meaning in the dictionary...)

  • 1. Please include (not mention) the research you've done, 2. Please include a link to the source, so we don't have to look for it, 3) it could be an error for 'note down that'. Jun 12, 2017 at 13:14
  • I would say that it's being used synonymously with words like dwindle, diminish, reduce and decline. It's phrased in an odd order, which might make more sense if "will not down" were moved to the end of the sentence: "For in retrospect the impression that, so far from being ludicrous, those ideas were sane, intelligent, liberal, and practical will not down ."
    – SteveES
    Jun 12, 2017 at 13:14
  • @MrLister Could you please kindly find a matching meaning as fits the context here. I can't seem to find any.
    – Shun
    Jun 12, 2017 at 13:17
  • 3
    I only know down as 'drink down,' as in "Down the coffee. Let's go already." Jun 12, 2017 at 13:19
  • @Shun Sorry, when re-reading the sentence in the example, I'm becoming less certain of its meaning. In fact, I'm also starting to doubt the validity of "so" in there. Never mind me then.
    – Mr Lister
    Jun 12, 2017 at 13:20

2 Answers 2


According to the OED it is a US sense, which I (a British person) had never before encountered.

It is sense 2b, of verb2 of "down", meaning "to die down". Only one example is given.

2b. To die down. U.S.

1924 W. M. Raine Troubled Waters xvii. 180 The rumour would not down that one of the prisoners had turned State's evidence.

verb1 - down has to do with the application of "down", meaning feathers.

verb2 - down relates to various verbal senses to do with a downward direction.

  • 17
    +1 That must be it, but I must say that I, as an American person, also don't recall having encountered it before. I suspect it was always fairly rare, and could probably now be called obsolete—the source story is from 1959—or maybe regional (though I don't know what region).
    – 1006a
    Jun 12, 2017 at 13:36
  • 2
    great find. I encountered it before in military slang (to down an aircraft) or in headlines like this one but never in that "sense 2b".
    – dlatikay
    Jun 12, 2017 at 13:56
  • 6
    @dlatikay In Britain you can also down a drink. Google gives half a million hits for "down a pint".
    – user221615
    Jun 12, 2017 at 14:52
  • 10
    AmE speaker here. I'm with 1006a; I've never heard the verb "down" in this sense, but I have heard it in the sense of "to bring down" as dlatikay mentions. In addition to aircraft, you can also down a server, which is synonymous with shutting it down.
    – shoover
    Jun 12, 2017 at 15:24
  • 1
    American person here also--never heard it--except as "down your beer, we gotta get outta here" This is a 1959 article--almost 60 years ago.
    – Xanne
    Jun 12, 2017 at 19:37

Having worked in computers for many years, the term "down the interface", which means to put into an offline state making unavailable for use but not necessarily to power the entire machine down.

For example, when performing an upgrade it is sometimes required to down the interface, which means to take the network interface from being online and available to being offline and unavailable, preventing connections to the machine from being established until the software upgrade is complete. In this example, if you were to look at the interface, it would very literally display "down" as a status.

"We need to down the interface on Saturday. Please let everyone know."

You can also use it to indicate shutting something off, such as down the server or down the lights. In any case, this would be a common usage of down as a verb as opposed to any dictionary defined usage.


In your American Heritage example, the use of the term down as a verb means that it persists. I cannot find any usages of down as a verb in any modern context except as shorthand for a more complete phrase such as "turn down the volume", where if you said "Hey, down the volume" people might know what you mean, but it would not be a proper usage.

There is a phrase "down the hatch" but the meaning is not the same, even if the structure is. There is no hatch to put in a down position, rather it refers to taking a drink until it is finished.


English is not confusing at all, said no one ever.

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