con·​de·​scend·​ing | \ ˌkän-di-ˈsen-diŋ How to pronounce condescending (audio) \

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 How to pronounce condescendingly (audio) \ 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

While many in Georgia have offered support, Kremlin-friendly media in Russia reacted to her statements with incredulous and condescending remarks. Vladimir Kozlov, Billboard, "Kremlin Counters Boycott By Georgian Singer With Warning for Russian Artists," 5 July 2019 But the players refused to accept this condescending logic. Tate Royer, The Denver Post, "Guest Commentary: The biggest fight facing the U.S. women’s soccer team isn’t on the field," 14 June 2019 This could feel like a condescending attempt to end up on the right side of history, but doesn’t—the characters are never reduced to props in a you-go-girl power ballad. Katy Waldman, The New Yorker, "In Mark Haddon’s “The Porpoise,” Storytelling Is an Instrument of Violence and Solace," 13 June 2019 His upbringing is often referred to in condescending terms in media stories. Helin Jung, Cosmopolitan, "12 Things to Know About Devin Nunes, Chair of the House Intelligence Committee," 2 Feb. 2018 This is actually far more condescending and sexist than all the old dead white Republican men on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Fox News, "High school friend of Kavanaugh reacts to new allegation; Alan Dershowitz on Kavanaugh chaos," 28 Sep. 2018 What this condescending message chiefly does is deny to the faith a sense of inner dynamism and enterprise—exactly what is needed in finding a modern future. Bartle Bull, WSJ, "‘Crusade and Jihad’ Review: Conquest and Conquerors," 26 Aug. 2018 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

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

15 Jul 2019

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

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on condescending

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with condescending

Spanish Central: Translation of condescending

Nglish: Translation of condescending for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of condescending for Arabic Speakers

Comments on condescending

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