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dec·​a·​dent ˈde-kə-dənt How to pronounce decadent (audio)
 also  di-ˈkā-
: characterized by or appealing to self-indulgence
a rich and decadent dessert
the hotel's decadent luxury
: marked by decay or decline
an increasingly decadent society
literature : of, relating to, or having the characteristics of a group of late 19th century French and English writers tending toward artificial and unconventional subjects and subtilized style : of, relating to, or having the characteristics of the decadents (see decadent entry 2 sense 1)
decadently adverb


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literature : one of a group of late 19th century French and English writers tending toward artificial and unconventional subjects and subtilized style
: one that is marked by decay or decline : one that is decadent (see decadent entry 1 sense 2)

Did you know?

To be decadent is to be in the process of decay, so a powerful nation may be said to be in a decadent stage if its power is fading. But the word is more often used to speak of moral decay. Ever since the Roman empire, we've tended to link Rome's fall to the moral decay of its ruling class, who indulged in extreme luxuries and unwholesome pleasures while providing the public with cruel spectacles such as the slaughter of the gladiators. But not everyone agrees on what moral decadence looks like (or even how it might have hastened the fall of Rome), though most people think it involves too many sensual pleasures—as, for instance, among the French and English poets and artists of the 1880s and ʼ90s called the Decadents. These days, for some reason, people have decided decadent is the way to describe rich chocolate cakes.

Examples of decadent in a Sentence

Adjective The book condemns some of society's wealthiest members as decadent fools. a wealthy and decadent lifestyle a decadent hotel room, complete with a hot tub We relaxed in decadent luxury. Noun avant-garde artists who were scorned by the bourgeoisie as talentless decadents a decadent who squandered her once considerable family fortune
Recent Examples on the Web
This decadent pie has all of our favorite things in one dish. Patricia S York, Southern Living, 7 May 2024 It was inspired by JG Ballard's short novel of the same name, which has at the center of the tale a couple living in a decadent estate, immersed in culture, arts, and flowers. Giacomo Aricò, Glamour, 7 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for decadent 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'decadent.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Adjective and Noun

back-formation from decadence

First Known Use


1837, in the meaning defined at sense 2


1886, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of decadent was in 1837

Dictionary Entries Near decadent

Cite this Entry

“Decadent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 May. 2024.

More from Merriam-Webster on decadent

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