We opened the new school year this week with faculty meetings. One of our admission directors began with reporting the number of students we attritted last year. I never knew their was a verb form to attrition, and it seemed worth while to look both words up. Attrition comes originally from the idea of wearing away (the Latin is atterere meaing “to rub away”). Starting with World War I, it was used in the military sense of wearing down the enemy’s numbers. Nowhere in the O.E.D. or other dictionaries I consulted did I find the modern use of loss of one’s own numbers (attrition in a job or a school). Attrit had only the military definition as well.
Isn’t it time the dictionaries updated this one?