Here’s my attempt so far:

Baisser - lower or decrease, often used for numbers or quantifiable things

Diminuer - reduce or lower, emphasises the loss or reduction

Réduire - reduce, has to be done by someone, vs diminuer it focuses on the action of lowering vs the state of being lowered

Amoindrir - lessen, abate. Can also mean undermine or undercut

That’s my interpretation partly based on deciphering the differences in English.

  • I wanted to answer this question, but I must say I kind of agree with your definitions! The only thing is "réduire", which in my opinion does not need to be done by someone, but rather emphasizes the idea that there is little left after the reduction. I see it as close to "diminuer", but maybe with a stronger emphasis on reduction. E.g. "L'optimisation des espaces de travail a permis de réduire drastiquement les dépenses". The difference between all these verbs is subtle, and I think usage comes with a sort of "instinct" for native French speakers.
    – Reyedy
    May 3 '20 at 9:12

I quote (because I cannot comment), and looks at the meaning for a physical object (primary sense of each words):

Baisser from bas (low, bottom) (lower)

The object don’t changes its size, but goes to the bottom. « Baisser le volume sonore » is not related to the acoustic pressure, but to the controller of the amplifier. It is in fact related to « baisser le niveau sonore », or « tourner le bouton du volume sonore vers la gauche » or even « baisser le curseur du volume sonore ».

Diminuer relates to diminution, mineur, mini. (smaller)

Change its height, not its width nor whole volume ; changing the height/width ratio.

Réduire relates to réduction (smaller)

Reduce its size, but in all directions. Height, and volume, without changing the height/width ratio.

Amoindrir relates to moindre and moins. (lesser)

Make its negative (or sometimes positive) effect less important. « amoindrir le choc ». It will still be important, but mitigated.


There is a difference in language registers, amoindrir is literary, almost never used in the conversation and rare in books, diminuer and réduire are less expected in a colloquial situation while baisser is not linked to any register.

I'm close to your guesses when comparing these verbs:

Baisser from bas (low, bottom) (lower)

Diminuer relates to diminution, mineur, mini. (smaller)

Réduire relates to réduction (smaller)

Amoindrir relates to moindre and moins. (lesser)

Usage is sometimes different, especially with baisser which is often used in phrases where the other ones can't be :

Je baisse la tête1, la voix, le ton, les yeux, les bras, la visière, le pont-levis...

Sometimes, the three first verbs are interchangeable:

Je baisse/diminue/réduit le prix/le débit/le niveau/les gaz/le volume: all are fine.

Réduire has some specific meanings (shared with the English "to reduce") like réduire une équation (mathematics) or réduire une fracture (surgery).

Amoindrir is rarely conjugated, many of the few occurrences use the infinitive:

Amoindrir le rôle
Amoindrir le pouvoir
Amoindrir le sentiment
Amoindrir le choc

1Je diminue and even more je réduis la tête are possible, but with a huge difference in meaning ;-)

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