de·​base | \di-ˈbās, dē-\

Definition of debase 

transitive verb

1 : 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

2a : to reduce the intrinsic value of (a coin) by increasing the base-metal content

b : to reduce the exchange value of (a monetary unit)

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Other Words from debase

debasement \ -​ˈbās-​mənt \ noun
debaser \ -​ˈbā-​sər \ noun

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

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.

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

Engaging in any serious political conversation with him can only debase both our conversation and our politics. Laurie Penny, Longreads, "Peterson’s Complaint," 12 July 2018 Few actresses have crafted such a challenging, debasing vehicle for themselves as this indie feature adapted from her play. Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Eat Me': Film Review," 5 July 2018 Why people are drawn to such groups, which debase them as human beings to the point of mindless obedience, is one of the mysteries Nakamura seems interested in exploring. Paula L. Woods,, "Can exploring the dark side in fiction go too far? Fuminori Nakamura's 'Cult X' presses the question," 25 May 2018 As expenses exceed revenue, the feds can either expand the money supply to pay the bills, thus debasing our currency, or else either raise taxes or cut benefits. WSJ, "Not Much Has Changed With Social Security," 14 June 2018 Or take the example of airline miles, a form of private currency that is constantly debased by its issuers. Gideon Lewis-kraus, WIRED, "The Blockchain: A Love Story—And a Horror Story," 18 June 2018 The decline in lead pollution was enhanced by Rome’s switch from the silver denarius, which had been increasingly debased with copper, to a gold standard. The Economist, "Arctic ice brings an understanding of ancient Europe’s economy," 19 May 2018 Cheap, high-quality propaganda risks making the truth harder to find, further debasing democratic politics. The Economist, "A faked video of Donald Trump points to a worrying future," 24 May 2018 Using humor and protest strategies honed in 2013 The use of humor can debase, or as political scientist James Scott would say, erode the symbolic power of an entrenched leader like Erdogan. Lisel Hintz, Washington Post, "How a hashtag and memes are uniting Turkey’s opposition," 11 May 2018

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

1565, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Time Traveler for debase

The first known use of debase was in 1565

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More Definitions for debase



English Language Learners Definition of debase

: to lower the value or reputation of (someone or something) : to make (someone or something) less respected

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Comments on debase

What made you want to look up debase? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


noxious or harmful

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