Quantcast
Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary

condescend

play
verb con·de·scend \ˌkän-di-ˈsend\

Simple Definition of condescend

  • : to show that you believe you are more intelligent or better than other people

  • : to do something that you usually do not do because you believe you are too important to do it

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of condescend

  1. intransitive verb
  2. 1 a :  to descend to a less formal or dignified level :  unbend b :  to waive the privileges of rank

  3. 2 :  to assume an air of superiority

Examples of condescend in a sentence

  1. <I will not condescend to answer the sore loser's charge that I cheated in order to win the race.>

  2. <wealthy people who tend to be condescending toward their poor relations>



What Is the Difference Between condescending and patronizing?

Very few words in English have exactly the same meaning; even words which appear to be entirely synonymous often will be found to have small differences in certain contexts. The words condescending and patronizing present a fine example of this. At first glance these words appear to be defined somewhat circularly: condescending often has the word "patronizing" in its definition, and patronize is defined, in part, as “to adopt an air of condescension toward.”

But both of these words have specialized senses that lend a shade of meaning to their synonymous senses. Patronizing can mean "giving support to" or "being a customer of," suggesting that the "condescending" sense implies superiority gained through a donor-dependent relationship.

The verb condescend used to be free of any hint of the offensive superiority it usually suggests today. It could mean literally "to go or come down" or, figuratively, "to willingly lower oneself to another’s level," senses that are still occasionally encountered in writings on the Bible. The idea of self-consciously lowering oneself is implied in the "patronizing" sense of condescending.

Origin and Etymology of condescend

Middle English, from Anglo-French condescendre, from Late Latin condescendere, from Latin com- + descendere to descend


First Known Use: 14th century


CONDESCEND Defined for Kids

condescend

play
verb con·de·scend \ˌkän-di-ˈsend\

Definition of condescend for Students

condescended

condescending

  1. 1 :  to stoop to the level of someone considered less important <These two great commanders did not condescend to fight in person … — Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer>

  2. 2 :  to grant favors with a show of being better than others <She only condescended to speak to me because she needed something.>





Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up condescend? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

the lowest point

Get Word of the Day daily email!

WORD GAMES

Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

fox-in-summer-forest

Which of these is a synonym of inchoate?

experimental frightening massive formless
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ