To reduce in number or size: a corporation that downsized its personnel in response to a poor economy.
To dismiss or lay off from work: workers who were downsized during the recession.
To make in a smaller size: cars that were downsized during an era of high gasoline prices.
To become smaller in size by reductions in personnel: Corporations continued to downsize after the economy recovered.
Our Living Language Nothing fails so miserably as a failed euphemism—though there have been plenty of successes. The English language, especially business jargon, is littered with words that now seem ordinary but were once regarded as euphemisms. Consider the terms senior for old person, custodian for janitor, and rest room for toilet (itself a euphemism). These words arise from a natural tendency to ease the pain or embarrassment associated with things such as death or bodily functions, or from a conscious desire to recast something unpleasant in a more dignified light. Downsize is a recent example of a euphemism that found broad acceptance in the language and is not particularly thought of as a deceptive attempt to smooth over the pain of large-scale firings. But the search for less harmful terms goes on and on. The attempt to find even more positive-sounding ways to say “downsize” has led business executives and people working in human resources and public relations (both euphemisms themselves) to float a number of alternatives. Companies were being “reengineered” and even “right-sized”; laid-off workers had to be “separated” or “unassigned” for being “nonessential”; their jobs were said to be “no longer going forward.” Most of these terms were met with scorn, being regarded as cynical attempts to sugarcoat an inherently distressing phenomenon, and as failed euphemisms they accomplished the exact opposite of what they were designed to. Why one euphemism should be accepted while another is not remains something of a mystery, but the selection of such terms indicates one way in which social attitudes have a powerful effect on language change.
To reduce the size of a company, often by closing, selling, or spinning off one or more divisions. Management may decide to downsize a firm in an effort to improve efficiency and to increase the returns to shareholders. Downsizing can cause a firm to grow smaller and more valuable at the same time.
To move to smaller accommodations. For example, a couple may downsize, or move to a smaller home, after their children are grown.
To reduce in number, especially personnel: “The company decided to downsize half the workers in the aircraft division.” It can also be used in reference to objects: “I decided to downsize my wardrobe and threw out all my old T-shirts.”
Downsize is a recent euphemism for “fire, lay off.” Company managers often use this term in an attempt to soften the blow of wide-scale layoffs.
To reduce the size of a company, often by eliminating one or more divisions. Management may decide to downsize a firm in order to improve efficiency and to increase the returns to shareholders. Downsizing can cause a firm to grow smaller and more valuable at the same time.