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I have a question about the meaning of the verb "fall" in this New York Times article:

In all, 24 men and 19 women made the team. In 26 events over six days, world records fell in two events and American records in 10. The Kiphuth High Point Awards went to Myers and Matt Biondi. The Phillips Performance Award for the outstanding performance of the meet went to David Berkoff, who broke the world backstroke record twice Friday. Morales Fails to Qualify

Does "world records fell" mean "decrease"?

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    In this case, "world records fell" means that the records were beaten. – user28337 Jan 2 '16 at 22:27
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    Fall is used here in the sense succumb, be defeated; the old records "succumbed" to new ones. – StoneyB Jan 2 '16 at 22:27
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"In 26 events over six days, world records fell in two events and American records in 10."

This sentence means that two previous world-best records and ten American-best records were bettered by the current participants in the competition. "American records in 10" means "American records fell in 10 events."

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A record is said to stand while it lasts, and fall when it is broken. You might also hear phrases like "knocking down world records". This analogy extends to other things that can last or fail to last, such and laws and dynasties. "Stand" is a generally figurative term that refers to something existing and/or staying the same over a period of time, and likewise "fall" generally refers to something being defeated, superseded, overturned, or otherwise ended.

I would say from my personal experience that the use of "falling" in reference to records seems slightly unusual, as it is almost ubiquitous to use "break".

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I'm afraid not, it does not mean 'decrease'. It means 'to lose' or 'to be defeated or to be conquered (by something or somebody)'. Let me take another example to explain:

"The Mughal Empire fell after the expansions of the kingdom came to a halt, under Aurangzeb."

This 'fell' means the same as the 'fell' in your context. The Empire deteriorated soon after Aurangzeb stopped expanding his vast empire. The empire steadily declined and facing a defeat. That is the meaning of the 'fell' in your context.

PS : The "fall of an empire" has a lot of context in it itself, not all of it is applicable in your context. However, the basic meaning is the same.

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