de·​base di-ˈbās How to pronounce debase (audio)
debased; debasing; debases

transitive verb

: to lower in status, esteem, quality, or character
debased himself by lying to his supporters
… a constitutional amendment that would allow Congress to outlaw debasing the American flag.Time
This is not to say that you should be prepared to debase camping standards.The Scout Leader's Handbook
: to reduce the intrinsic value of (a coin) by increasing the base-metal content
: to reduce the exchange value of (a monetary unit)
debasement noun
debaser noun

Did you know?

Debase is often used to talk about someone's lowered status or character. People are constantly blustering about the debased tastes of the ordinary American, and especially the debased music of America's youth. A commentator might observe that both candidates had managed to debase themselves by the end of a political campaign. Debase has a special meaning in economics: From time to time, governments find that they need to quietly debase their countries' currency by reducing the percentage of valuable metal in its coins; if they don't, the metal may become more valuable than the coin and people will begin melting the coins down and reselling the metal.

Choose the Right Synonym for debase

debase, vitiate, deprave, corrupt, debauch, pervert mean to cause deterioration or lowering in quality or character.

debase implies a loss of position, worth, value, or dignity.

commercialism has debased the holiday

vitiate implies a destruction of purity, validity, or effectiveness by allowing entrance of a fault or defect.

a foreign policy vitiated by partisanship

deprave implies moral deterioration by evil thoughts or influences.

the claim that society is depraved by pornography

corrupt implies loss of soundness, purity, or integrity.

the belief that bureaucratese corrupts the language

debauch implies a debasing through sensual indulgence.

the long stay on a tropical isle had debauched the ship's crew

pervert implies a twisting or distorting from what is natural or normal.

perverted the original goals of the institute

Example Sentences

The governor debased himself by lying to the public. The holiday has been debased by commercialism.
Recent Examples on the Web When information ecosystems become flooded with disinformation, truth is debased. Jordan Richard Schoenherr, Fortune, 14 Apr. 2023 Renfield is forced to procure his master’s prey and do his every bidding, no matter how debased. Staff, Dallas News, 6 Apr. 2023 Nowhere have Republicans done themselves more harm than in debasing the GOP’s brand as the party of fiscal responsibility, less government and more freedom. Phil Gramm, WSJ, 22 Feb. 2023 Her idea to debase Horne in order to gain favor with Davies leaned into the two characters’ oddly sadistic relationship—the Taskmaster is an exacting tyrant; Horne is a glorified butler. Chris Karnadi, The Atlantic, 1 Mar. 2023 In their view, governments and central banks breached a covenant with their citizens not to debase the currency through profligate spending. Jeff John Roberts, Fortune, 18 Jan. 2023 In a multiparty system, each group would have to debase its own platform to build a majority. WSJ, 13 Sep. 2022 This fundamentally differentiates it from more traditional hedges that serve as a store of value for when central banks actively debase their currency through quantitative easing. Christiaan Hetzner, Fortune, 22 June 2022 Opponents say the changes will debase the 850-year-old cathedral and disturb the harmony of its Gothic design. New York Times, 10 Dec. 2021 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'debase.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1565, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of debase was in 1565

Dictionary Entries Near debase

Cite this Entry

“Debase.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 May. 2023.

Kids Definition


de·​base di-ˈbās How to pronounce debase (audio)
debased; debasing
: to lower in character, dignity, quality, or value
debasement noun
debaser noun

More from Merriam-Webster on debase

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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