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

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Synonyms for condescend


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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 Patients with obesity perceive these slights, reporting that health care providers do not take them seriously, erroneously assume that their weight is responsible for all their ailments, and condescend to them about losing weight. Chin Jou, Scientific American, "Another Misguided 'War' on Obesity," 23 Aug. 2020 Alexandra and Mariamne continued to condescend to Herod and his family; meanwhile, Salome and Cypros turned up the dial on their intriguing, trying to undermine the Hasmoneans on every front. Anne Thériault, Longreads, "Queens of Infamy: Mariamne I," 18 Dec. 2019 The character hates people who condescend to her, and the camera never looks down on her. Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Home Before Dark': TV Review," 2 Apr. 2020 Alayah answers all of Sydney’s condescending questions seriously and without showing any offense, which is kind of amazing to see. Lia Beck,, "The Bachelor Season 24, Episode 3 Recap: And You Thought Champagne-Gate Was Bad…," 21 Jan. 2020 Funny what can happen when Hollywood makes programming that is not condescending toward half the country. Fox News, "'Roseanne' reboot premieres to strong ratings," 29 Mar. 2018 Lewis could be condescending to the media and, by extension, to the fans. John Fay,, "BengalsXtra: Injuries made head coach Zac Taylor's 1st year tough but 1-13 is 1-13," 21 Dec. 2019 Only one who neither fully endorses everything that the Trump administration supports, nor mockingly condescends to voters whose legitimate cultural angst leads them to reluctantly pull the lever for Trump, can be persuasive. Andrew T. Walker, National Review, "Understanding Why Religious Conservatives Would Vote for Trump," 10 Feb. 2020 Eastwood would not make a film that condescended to a suburban woman proud of her hero son. Rumaan Alam, The New Republic, "The People vs. Richard Jewell," 20 Dec. 2019

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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Time Traveler for condescend

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for condescend

Last Updated

4 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Condescend.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Mar. 2021.

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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 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.

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