con·​de·​scend | \ ˌkän-di-ˈsend \
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

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Synonyms for condescend


deign, stoop

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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

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 Percy Shelley informs his friends in one scene, with a gifted husband’s condescending pride. Ty Burr,, "Mary Shelley’s monster hit," 30 May 2018 Those Wild Wyndhams By Claudia Renton Knopf, 458 pages, $30 Ms. Renton’s own capacities and possibilities make her empathetic, but never condescending, toward the Wyndhams, gilded captives of their time and class. Richard Davenport-hines, WSJ, "‘Those Wild Wyndhams’ Review: Gilded Captives of Their Time," 15 June 2018 However, Serena’s serious tone is not matched by her husband, Fred, who dismisses her with a condescending promise to discuss the matter., "The Handmaid's Tale Recap Season 2, Episode 13: The Martha Express," 11 July 2018 Just as in the first season, the most confident of these moments are the ones that outline exactly how grinding, humiliating, condescending, and horrifying the experience of being a Handmaid truly is. Caroline Framke, Vox, "The Handmaid’s Tale is as searing as ever in season 2. But its blind spots haven’t gone away.," 24 Apr. 2018 Rather than involving itself with facile life-determines-art equations, or condescending to its viewers in the manner of an overeager biopic, this piece trusts its own material and approaches it with admirable restraint. Jeremy Eichler,, "Kafka encaged, writing to his father," 18 June 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.

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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

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Last Updated

28 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for condescend

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

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More Definitions for condescend



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


con·​de·​scend | \ ˌkän-di-ˈsend \
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.

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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).


to express emotion in a dramatic way

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