degenerate

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

Definition of degenerate 

(Entry 1 of 3)

1a : 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 sense 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

degenerate

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

Definition of degenerate (Entry 2 of 3)

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 sense 2a) or less functionally active form degenerated into dependent parasites

transitive verb

: to cause to degenerate

degenerate

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

Definition of degenerate (Entry 3 of 3)

: one that is degenerate (see degenerate entry 1) : 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 sense 3a) to an earlier culture stage

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Other Words from degenerate

Adjective

degenerately adverb
degenerateness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for degenerate

Adjective

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

Examples of degenerate in a Sentence

Adjective

He criticizes what he believes is a degenerate society. a degenerate society in which people had no sense of being citizens, only consumers

Verb

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

Noun

a couple of degenerates on a crime spree a degenerate who is uninterested in anything but his own gratification
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

The book was a best-seller, but Harding’s friends and the Republican establishment denounced it as fiction and attacked Britton viciously, calling her a degenerate home-wrecker. Elaine Weiss, WSJ, "Presidential Hush Money, Circa 1920," 31 May 2018 That’s when degenerate nation began a worldwide sweat. Max Meyer, SI.com, "The Five Most Insane Gambling Moments From the First Weekend of the NCAA Tournament," 18 Mar. 2018 Franco does double duty as Vincent and his twin, the more degenerate Frankie, but Frankie feels like an unnecessary addition. Kelly Lawler, USA TODAY, "Review: ‘The Deuce’ is a surprisingly sincere story of porn and prostitution," 7 Sep. 2017 Today, our politics labors under the petty twin tyrannies of moralism and tribalism, the degenerate cousins of ethics and community. Fred Bauer, National Review, "How to Renew Our Civic Culture," 20 Oct. 2017 Walkthru predicts Sunday's game, plus, explains why the Bengals worked out QBs, Boyd's charges, BBP2, degenerate corner on AFC bets and deleted scenes from the week. Paul Dehner Jr., Cincinnati.com, "Walkthru: Predictions for Bills at Bengals," 6 Oct. 2017 The Young Man and Woman are chased away by degenerate sinners: a prostitute, a knight, a wet nurse, a priest, and God himself. Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, "Mother!'s Theater of Cruelty," 24 Sep. 2017

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Replacement of the degenerating joints isn’t an option for a goose. Karen Weintraub, New York Times, "Doctor, Your Patient Is Waiting. It’s a Red Panda.," 29 June 2018 The European Union reflects the order and the spirit of liberal democracy in its most degenerate version. Tunku Varadarajan, WSJ, "If America Is Divided, So Is Europe," 6 July 2018 The hurricane is expected to strengthen today before weakening Saturday and degenerating to a tropical storm or an open trough by Sunday or Monday. Samantha Ketterer, Houston Chronicle, "Hurricane Beryl becomes first of 2018 Atlantic season," 6 July 2018 The Peter Strzok hearing degenerated into a circus, but never mind. Howard Kurtz, Fox News, "Kavanaugh's baseball debts: Why the nominee's opponents are striking out," 13 July 2018 By the end of 2011, the protests had degenerated into a sectarian civil war. The Economist, "How a victorious Bashar al-Assad is changing Syria," 28 June 2018 Malkevich’s hopes of generating a similar furor now, two years later, seem to have degenerated into self-parody, however. NBC News, "This man is running Russia's newest propaganda effort in the U.S. — or at least he's trying to," 15 June 2018 As the confrontation threatened to degenerate, the delegation left and told the volunteers to postpone work for the time being. Longreads, "Where Have You Hidden the Cholera?," 5 Apr. 2018 That idea has been kicking around since at least the 1950s but has never overcome a key objection: degenerating brains might just be more inviting to pathogens than healthy brains. Sharon Begley, STAT, "New study supports long-dismissed idea: Herpes viruses could play role in Alzheimer’s," 21 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Waterford thinks gay people are degenerate and would string McCullough up at the wall back home in Gilead. Rena Gross, Billboard, "9 Major Moments From 'The Handmaid's Tale' Season 2, Episode 9 'Smart Power'," 13 June 2018 In a handsome catalog accompanying the show, curator Lynette Roth notes that only about a quarter of the more than 100 artists declared degenerate left the country. M.j. Andersen, WSJ, "‘Inventur—Art in Germany, 1943-55’ Review: Creativity in the Shadow of War," 18 Apr. 2018 Well, for degenerate gamblers like yours truly, a shot down seven points as time expires can be just as sweet. Max Meyer, SI.com, "The Five Most Insane Gambling Moments From the First Weekend of the NCAA Tournament," 18 Mar. 2018 In his iconic 1975 thriller High-Rise, a luxury apartment complex degenerates when its residents take up arms against each other, prompted by nothing but disputes over clogged garbage chutes. Becca Rothfeld, The New Republic, "J.G. Ballard’s Eerily Accurate Dystopias," 14 Mar. 2018 Charm City’s favorite unregenerate degenerate appreciated the shout-out. Chris Kaltenbach, baltimoresun.com, "A very John Waters take on why 'Shape of Water' might have been set in Baltimore," 12 Mar. 2018 This game was so bad degenerate gamblers took a pass. Mac Engel, star-telegram, "Mavericks' silly, unbelievable, insulting streak should stop," 13 Feb. 2018 Those who suffer from this madness will do anything, even toss democratic principles into the trash bin or vote for a moral degenerate like Roy Moore, to safeguard their illusion. Eddie S. Glaude, Time, "Black Voters Just Sent a Strong Message to Democrats By Electing Doug Jones," 13 Dec. 2017 We’re done with the college football season, with the exception of Army-Navy, the playoffs, and the exhibitions sponsored by various interchangeable corporations that exist only to satisfy the urges of degenerate gamblers. Gary Gramling, SI.com, "Mike Mitchell Is Angry About Suspensions and Fines (and He’s Right), Perfect Time for a Too-Early Look at Draft QBs, Gronk-Less Pats in Peril?," 10 Dec. 2017

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.

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First Known Use of degenerate

Adjective

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Verb

1545, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

Noun

1555, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for degenerate

Adjective

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

Verb

see degenerate entry 1

Noun

see degenerate entry 1

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Time Traveler for degenerate

The first known use of degenerate was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for degenerate

degenerate

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of degenerate

 (Entry 1 of 3)

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

degenerate

verb

English Language Learners Definition of degenerate (Entry 2 of 3)

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

degenerate

noun

English Language Learners Definition of degenerate (Entry 3 of 3)

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

degenerate

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

Medical Definition of degenerate 

(Entry 1 of 3)

1a : 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

degenerate

intransitive verb
de·gen·er·ate | \di-ˈjen-ə-ˌrāt \
degenerated; degenerating

Medical Definition of degenerate (Entry 2 of 3)

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

degenerate

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

Medical Definition of degenerate (Entry 3 of 3)

: one that is degenerate: as

a : one degraded from the normal moral standard

b : a sexual pervert

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