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

In this case, a speech — about the ugly necessity for black people to debase themselves in a white man’s world — that is usually spoken to the other characters on stage is hurled like a fireball into the audience. Ben Brantley, New York Times, "Review: ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ Burns With New Fire," 1 July 2019 Kent also makes sure to depict the experiences of Aboriginal people, who were debased and eradicated on a massive scale by a colonial power that didn’t treat them as human beings. David Sims, The Atlantic, "Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale Delves Into a Harrowing Past," 4 Aug. 2019 But does Wall Street, the emblem of our free market system, care if American democracy is debased, as long as the profits keep rolling in? Larry Edelman,, "On Wall Street, do profits trump democracy?," 17 July 2019 It’s hard to get excited about the prospect of sitting in that audience, a sea of white faces, and watching a black guy onstage fight for his life as other characters debase him with racial epithets again and again. Washington Post, "A future beyond ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’: ‘I’m not interested in being the guy who does black pain’," 28 June 2019 In so doing, the partisan gerrymanders here debased and dishonored our democracy, turning upside-down the core American idea that all governmental power derives from the people. Ephrat Livni, Quartz, "The US Supreme Court says partisan gerrymandering is not its problem," 27 June 2019 Women who are very valuable assets wind up debasing themselves this way, according to Brzezinski. Halley Bondy, NBC News, "Mika: 8 ways women can step up their negotiation game," 18 June 2019 Having seen what fake news and trolling has done to public discourse in rich countries, many observers worry about politics being debased, from the polarisation of India’s electorate to the persecution of Myanmar’s Rohingya minority. The Economist, "The second half of humanity is joining the internet," 8 June 2019 The future may add another caveat: Hate-crime charges have become debased in the public mind because of false accusations. Holman W. Jenkins, WSJ, "Are Hate-Crime Laws Helping?," 22 Feb. 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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Statistics for debase

Last Updated

8 Sep 2019

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Time Traveler for debase

The first known use of debase was in 1565

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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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with debase

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for 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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