condescend

verb
con·​de·​scend | \ ˌkän-di-ˈsend How to pronounce condescend (audio) \
condescended; condescending; condescends

Definition of condescend

intransitive verb

1 : to assume an air of superiority The writer treats her readers as equals and never condescends to them.
2a : to descend to a less formal or dignified level : unbend would not condescend to respond to such a crass remark
b : to waive the privileges of rank

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for condescend

Synonyms

deign, stoop

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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.

Examples of condescend in a Sentence

I will not condescend to answer the sore loser's charge that I cheated in order to win the race. wealthy people who tend to be condescending toward their poor relations

Recent Examples on the Web

Similar events across the country have raised eyebrows for being either condescending to female fans or too suggestive. Christy Cabrera Chirinos, sun-sentinel.com, "Manny Diaz, staff take select group of fans behind the scenes at Hurricanes’ first women’s football clinic," 9 June 2019 The acting is appropriately playful, as Bacon and Ward convey an awareness of the picture’s silliness without winking at the audience or condescending to the material. Jason Bailey, New York Times, "10 Movies to Fill the ‘Jurassic’-Sized Hole in Your Heart," 11 June 2018 Sometimes people were condescending or dismissive or rude. Mattie Kahn, Glamour, "From Nightmare Temp Jobs to Ticket Scalper Horror Stories—The Side Hustles We Don't Recommend," 9 Apr. 2019 On Monday, White House press Sarah Sanders finally condescended to meet with reporters, her first press conference in 42 days. Lynn Yaeger, Vogue, "The Week in Washington: “Get Rid of My Kids!”," 17 Mar. 2019 The approach endorsed by Mr. Stelter and Ms. Lakshmanan is pointedly condescending to their own audiences. Crispin Sartwell, WSJ, "‘Truth Sandwich’? Baloney!," 5 Aug. 2018 In its messaging, Zero is actively trying to avoid condescending to its users. Eliza Brooke, Vox, "Two-thirds of US smokers say they want to quit. This company has a new idea for helping them.," 18 Sep. 2018 The couple have faced more than their fair share of condescending comments and tense backlash since confirming their engagement last month. Lucy Wood, Marie Claire, "Ariana Grande Is Taking a Break from Twitter and Instagram to Avoid the "Negative Sh*t"," 24 July 2018 Men are socialized to be condescending toward women, and even the few who check themselves often fail. Cheryl Strayed And Steve Almond, New York Times, "How Do I Deal with My Anger Toward Men?," 13 Mar. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'condescend.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of condescend

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2a

History and Etymology for condescend

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about condescend

Statistics for condescend

Last Updated

15 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for condescend

The first known use of condescend was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for condescend

condescend

verb

English Language Learners Definition of condescend

formal + disapproving
: 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

condescend

verb
con·​de·​scend | \ ˌkän-di-ˈsend How to pronounce condescend (audio) \
condescended; condescending

Kids Definition of condescend

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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on condescend

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

incapable of being surmounted or overcome

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words for Summer: A Quiz

  • a closeup of a sunflower
  • Which of the following words means “of or relating to summer”?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

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

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!