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

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 \ di-​ˈbās-​mənt How to pronounce debasement (audio) , dē-​ \ noun
debaser \ di-​ˈbā-​sər How to pronounce debaser (audio) , dē-​ \ 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 The Wall Street Journal editorial board this week accused him of debasing his office with his shameful tweets about the death of a young woman who once worked for a media critic of his—signed an executive order to do away with the exemptions. Adam Lashinsky, Fortune, "I don’t like Section 230 either, but Trump’s attempt to remove it is still wrong," 29 May 2020 That so lofty a goal might be debased by Giuliani’s machinations to influence U.S. elections disgusted some of these officials. Steve Coll, The New Yorker, "Impeachment Goes Public," 3 Nov. 2019 The old currency, the cruzeiro, had been debased, suffering annual price rises reaching 2,500%. The Economist, "Emerging marketsMost, but not all, emerging markets have overcome high inflation," 10 Oct. 2019 The mashup of pop fantasy and world history deadens the former and debases the latter. Troy Patterson, The New Yorker, "“Hunters” Is a Spectacularly Misbegotten Tale of Avenging the Holocaust," 18 Feb. 2020 Arguments over who has suffered the most ultimately debase everyone involved. Vladislav Davidzon, WSJ, "The Holocaust and Historical Memory," 30 Jan. 2020 Part of what people don’t like is that Amazon debases the value of things. Scott Shane, New York Times, "Prime Mover: How Amazon Wove Itself Into the Life of an American City," 30 Nov. 2019 Trump is currently surrounded by people like Barr and Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State, who are willing to debase their offices to indulge Trump’s abuse of power. Jeffrey Toobin, The New Yorker, "Donald Trump’s Ukraine Scandal Has Its Roots in Russia," 6 Oct. 2019 This is an administration that seems to know no bounds, that continues to debase and degrade the rule of law and basic principles of democracy. Breanne Kovatch,, "Healey, advocates celebrate win on 2020 Census question, say more work needs to be done," 27 June 2019

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

Time Traveler

The first known use of debase was in 1565

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Statistics for debase

Last Updated

1 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Debase.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for debase


How to pronounce debase (audio)

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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More from Merriam-Webster on debase

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for debase

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with debase

Spanish Central: Translation of debase

Nglish: Translation of debase for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of debase for Arabic Speakers

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