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

Examples of debase in a Sentence

The governor debased himself by lying to the public. The holiday has been debased by commercialism.
Recent Examples on the Web And that’s what De Niro’s political tantrums have debased. Armond White, National Review, 5 June 2024 The most debased and tragic is Jeff, who, with his wife, has worked at the fair for decades. Margaret Lyons, New York Times, 30 May 2024 But one such possibility, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., openly considered a professional football player as his vice presidential running mate before settling on a Silicon Valley attorney, and numerous members of the Kennedy family debased this frequently embarrassing relative. Jay Ambrose, The Mercury News, 28 Mar. 2024 In a way, the trend depends on forms that are otherwise debased. Jesse Green, New York Times, 31 Jan. 2024 The judge was about to sentence one of two kidnappers who debased, raped and beat Hubbard and her friend before forcing them to dig their own graves. Petula Dvorak, Washington Post, 25 Jan. 2024 Haley is no avatar of the status quo ante but proof of how debased the party of Abraham Lincoln has become in its thrall to Trump. Susan B. Glasser, The New Yorker, 28 Dec. 2023 But unfortunately, the white man can debase himself to the condition of the Negro. Anna Deavere Smith, The Atlantic, 13 Nov. 2023 Furthermore, societal perceptions of cancer patients can make an already debasing situation feel especially ostracizing. Tayler Adigun, Essence, 31 Oct. 2023

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 16 Jun. 2024.

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

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