1

degenerate

adjective de·gen·er·ate \ di-ˈjen-rət , -ˈje-nə- , dē- \
Updated on: 4 Dec 2017

Definition of degenerate

1 a : having declined or become less specialized (as in nature, character, structure, or function) from an ancestral or former state
  • the last degenerate member of a noble family
  • —W. E. Swinton
b : having sunk to a condition below that which is normal to a type
  • … fruit so degenerate that the insects weren't even interested …
  • —Tamar Perla
; especially : having sunk to a lower and usually corrupt and vicious state
  • a degenerate schemer
  • a despairing and degenerate world had sunk into servitude beneath him
  • —W. L. Sullivan
c : degraded 2
  • the functionally degenerate wings of the species
2 mathematics : being simpler (as by having a factor or constant equal to zero) than the typical case
  • a degenerate hyperbola
3 physics, astronomy : characterized by atoms stripped of their electrons and by very great density
  • degenerate matter
; also : consisting of degenerate matter
  • a degenerate star
4 physics, chemistry : having two or more states or subdivisions especially of the same energy or frequency
  • degenerate energy level
  • degenerate oscillation
5 genetics : having more than one codon representing an amino acid; also : being such a codon

degenerately

adverb

degenerateness

noun

Examples of degenerate in a Sentence

  1. He criticizes what he believes is a degenerate society.

  2. a degenerate society in which people had no sense of being citizens, only consumers

Recent Examples of degenerate from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'degenerate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Origin and Etymology of degenerate

Middle English degenerat, from Latin degeneratus, past participle of degenerare to degenerate, from de- + gener-, genus race, kind — more at kin

Synonym Discussion of degenerate

vicious, villainous, iniquitous, nefarious, corrupt, degenerate mean highly reprehensible or offensive in character, nature, or conduct. vicious may directly oppose virtuous in implying moral depravity, or may connote malignancy, cruelty, or destructive violence.
    • a vicious gangster
villainous applies to any evil, depraved, or vile conduct or characteristic.
    • a villainous assault
iniquitous implies absence of all signs of justice or fairness.
    • an iniquitous system of taxation
nefarious suggests flagrant breaching of time-honored laws and traditions of conduct.
    • the nefarious rackets of organized crime
corrupt stresses a loss of moral integrity or probity causing betrayal of principle or sworn obligations.
    • city hall was rife with corrupt politicians
degenerate suggests having sunk to an especially vicious or enervated condition.
    • a degenerate regime propped up by foreign powers

2

degenerate

verb de·gen·er·ate \ di-ˈje-nə-ˌrāt , dē- \

Definition of degenerate

intransitive verb
1 : to pass from a higher to a lower type or condition : deteriorate
  • her fixed mysterious smile degenerated into a fatuous stare
  • —J. C. Powys
2 : to sink into a low intellectual or moral state
  • The debate degenerated into a shouting match.
  • At the same time, discotheques degenerated into seedier venues … —shifty, often Mob-run last-martini stops for business commuters …
  • —Peter Braunstein
3 : to decline in quality
  • the poetry gradually degenerates into jingles
  • … the sitcom has degenerated into a sparring ring of personal insult
  • —James Wolcott
4 biology : to decline from a condition or from the standards of a species, race, or breed
5 biology : to evolve or develop into a less autonomous (see autonomous 2a) or less functionally active form
  • degenerated into dependent parasites
transitive verb
: to cause to degenerate

Examples of degenerate in a Sentence

  1. over the years the community-minded organization degenerated into a club for loafers

Recent Examples of degenerate from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'degenerate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Origin and Etymology of degenerate


3

degenerate

noun de·gen·er·ate \ di-ˈjen-rət , -ˈje-nə- , dē- \

Definition of degenerate

: one that is degenerate (see 1degenerate) : such as
a : one degraded from the normal moral standard
  • social degenerates
b : a sexual pervert
c anthropology : one showing signs of reversion (see reversion 3a) to an earlier culture stage

Examples of degenerate in a Sentence

  1. a couple of degenerates on a crime spree

  2. a degenerate who is uninterested in anything but his own gratification

Recent Examples of degenerate from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'degenerate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Origin and Etymology of degenerate


DEGENERATE Defined for English Language Learners

degenerate

adjective

Definition of degenerate for English Language Learners

  • : having low moral standards : not honest, proper, or good


degenerate

verb

Definition of degenerate for English Language Learners

  • : to change to a worse state or condition : to become worse, weaker, less useful, etc.


degenerate

noun

Definition of degenerate for English Language Learners

  • : a person whose behavior is not morally right or socially acceptable


Medical Dictionary

1

degenerate

adjective de·gen·er·ate \ di-ˈjen-(ə-)rət \

medical Definition of degenerate

1 a : having declined (as in nature, character, structure, or function) from an ancestral or former state; especially : having deteriorated progressively (as in the process of evolution) especially through loss of structure and function
b : having sunk to a lower and usually corrupt and vicious state
2 : having more than one codon representing an amino acid; also : being such a codon

2

degenerate

intransitive verb de·gen·er·ate \ di-ˈjen-ə-ˌrāt \

medical Definition of degenerate

degenerated; degenerating
1 : to sink into a low intellectual or moral state
2 : to pass from a higher to a lower type or condition: as
a : to gradually deteriorate so that normal function or structure is impaired or lost
  • the retina degenerated
b : to decline from the standards of a species, race, or breed
3 : to evolve or develop into a less autonomous or less functionally active form
  • degenerated into dependent parasites

3

degenerate

noun de·gen·er·ate \ di-ˈjen-(ə-)rət \

medical Definition of degenerate

: one that is degenerate: as
a : one degraded from the normal moral standard
b : a sexual pervert


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