con·​de·​scend·​ing | \ˌkän-di-ˈsen-diŋ \

Definition of condescending 

: showing or characterized by a patronizing or superior attitude toward others

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Other Words from condescending

condescendingly \ ˌkän-​di-​ˈsen-​diŋ-​lē \ adverb

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 condescending in a Sentence

The next big sequel to roll off the assembly line (awful, condescending phrase, but this is a case of what you have to do when the shoe fits) is going to be a sequel to "Rebecca," Daphne du Maurier's classic 1930's suspense novel. — Stephen King, New York Times Book Review, 6 June 1993 … when the picturesque was seen close up, the "happy poverty" of the peasant was not always happy. There was something unpleasantly condescending, an element of esthetic slumming in the tourist's or the artist's view of picturesqueness. — Anatole Broyard, New York Times Book Review, 1 Oct. 1989 I always imagined publishers were rather snarky and condescending and made a point of crabbing one's work, but he didn't a bit. — Elizabeth Bowen, letter, 19 Jan. 1923 His comments were offensive and condescending to us.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Mapes accumulated power over the years as other key Madigan confidantes left state government and lawmakers and staff privately grumbled of Mapes’ condescending and abrasive style. Kim Geiger,, "Speaker Madigan's chief of staff resigns hours after aide accused him of repeated sexually inappropriate comments," 7 June 2018 And on the other, men like Mr. Conservatives <3 Females and Mr. Fads, who find the #MeToo movement to be irrelevant and condescending. The Editors Of Gq, GQ, "What 1,147 Men Think About #MeToo: A Glamour x GQ Survey," 30 May 2018 Critics say the segment ended up stereotyping Africans in a condescending manner. Adam Taylor, Washington Post, "China’s televised New Year’s Gala featured a blackface skit about Africans," 16 Feb. 2018 This is not meant in a condescending way, so don’t go there, but understand this: For the Pacers, Tyreke Evans is an absolute home run in free agency. Gregg Doyel, Indianapolis Star, "Doyel: Tyreke Evans a risk worth taking as Pacers build Eastern Conference contender," 3 July 2018 Lea Kalisch’s Daphna is just as good at being awful – condescending and abrasive, always picking away at emotional scabs, Daphna is a memorable character if not an appealing one. Matthew J. Palm,, "Trapped in a studio apartment with 'Bad Jews'," 30 June 2018 Will her doctor give her a condescending lecture, or gently persuade her to cut her alcohol intake? Julie Washington,, "Medical students practice bedside manner at Northeast Ohio Medical University's training center," 31 Jan. 2018 On the body camera video, Grams was sarcastic and condescending almost immediately. Ashley Luthern, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Milwaukee cop who first confronted Bucks' Brown suspended two days," 24 May 2018 Now, no woman can get up and seriously discuss a subject like this without being painfully aware that her talk is going to inspire a lot of condescending little smiles and mildly humorous winks. Lily Rothman, Time, "How the Real Pilots of Mercury 13 Made the Case for the U.S. to Send Women to Space," 19 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'condescending.' 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 condescending

1660, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for condescending

see condescend

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Statistics for condescending

Last Updated

7 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for condescending

The first known use of condescending was in 1660

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More Definitions for condescending



English Language Learners Definition of condescending

: showing that you believe you are more intelligent or better than other people

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Comments on condescending

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