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

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Synonyms for condescend

Synonyms

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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 To satirize characters, however gently or affectionately, is to condescend to them, and Adam—or Lerner—conspicuously doesn’t. Elaine Blair, The New York Review of Books, "Learning to Fight," 28 Jan. 2020 The other, especially in Europe, was condescending. Los Angeles Times, "Commentary: George Walker is the black composer you should know but don’t. Why that may change," 17 Jan. 2020 Characterizing his legislative agenda as a homework assignment did not go over well with Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, who called the letter condescending. Laura Schulte, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Tony Evers gives Republicans 'homework' as he calls for bills on insulin, PFAS and dark stores," 9 Jan. 2020 This is part of a wider national strategy of appealing to voters who are tired of being condescended to by metropolitan elites. The Economist, "Boris Johnson: Britain’s Richard Nixon," 3 Oct. 2019 Nothing condescends to your intelligence; everything feels earned. Wired Staff, Wired, "The 24 Absolute Best Movies of the 2010s," 26 Dec. 2019 That’s the reviewer that doesn’t bother to read the manuscript a journal has sent out for evaluation for possible publication, offers condescending or outright offensive comments, and—of course—urges the irrelevant citation of their own work. Christie Wilcox, Science | AAAS, "Rude paper reviews are pervasive and sometimes harmful, study finds," 12 Dec. 2019 They've been accused of joining wrestling to be around boys, gotten condescending looks and have been insulted. David J. Kim, The Courier-Journal, "Pinning doubt: All-girls wrestling teams proving gender is no barrier on the mat," 19 Dec. 2019 Teenagers use it to reply to cringey YouTube videos, Donald Trump tweets, and basically any person over 30 who says something condescending about young people — and the issues that matter to them. BostonGlobe.com, "In a viral audio clip on TikTok, a white-haired man in a baseball cap and polo shirt declares, “The millennials and Generation Z have the Peter Pan syndrome, they don’t ever want to grow up.”," 31 Oct. 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

9 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Condescend.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/condescend?pronunciation&lang=en_us&dir=c&file=condes01. Accessed 21 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for condescend

condescend

verb
How to pronounce condescend (audio)

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.

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Comments on condescend

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