degenerate

adjective
de·​gen·​er·​ate | \ di-ˈjen-rət How to pronounce degenerate (audio) , -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 and 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 and 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 How to pronounce degenerate (audio) , dē- \
degenerated; degenerating; degenerates

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 How to pronounce degenerate (audio) , -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

Synonyms & Antonyms for degenerate

Synonyms: Adjective

Synonyms: Verb

Synonyms: Noun

Antonyms: Adjective

  • undecadent

Antonyms: Verb

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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 For non-degenerate gamblers, that means if Tampa Bay beats the Chiefs or loses by less than four points, McIngvale wins his bet. Matt Young, Chron, "'Mattress Mack' has $3.46 million Super Bowl bet on Tampa Bay," 4 Feb. 2021 Prior to the GameStop madness, when the subreddit Wall Street Bets was a quieter community of degenerate gamblers, members tracked Paul Pelosi’s market moves, often treating them as a joke about their own compulsive trading. Alex Pareene, The New Republic, "This Might Be a Good Time for Democrats in Congress to Stop Trading Stocks," 30 Jan. 2021 No sooner had news of the crime broken than the nationalist, anti-Semitic press began to extenuate and even to praise it as a blow against degenerate Jewish thought. Adam Kirsch, The New Yorker, "Philosophy in the Shadow of Nazism," 12 Oct. 2020 The project was then pitched to FBI leadership in a memo written by an agent named F.J. Baumgardner who, among his later activities, produced FBI memos labeling Martin Luther King Jr. a degenerate communist. Jacob Silverman, The New Republic, "Inside the FBI’s File on Soviet Poet-Dissident Yevgeny Yevtushenko," 21 Sep. 2020 The small secondhand window air conditioner whose acquisition one of us finally permitted after years of insisting that air-conditioning was a degenerate indulgence. Rafil Kroll-zaidi, Harper's Magazine, "Reason Not the Need," 15 Sep. 2020 One of the longest-running of these figures is Coppertone Jones, a degenerate gambler created and played by artistic director Matthew Posey. Manuel Mendoza, Dallas News, "Who’s Zoomin’ who? Profane puppets gab and sing in Ochre House’s new virtual production," 11 Sep. 2020 First published in 1980, The Incal is a legendary sci-fi comic about the adventures of a down-on-his-luck detective named John DiFool making his way through a degenerate dystopia. Christian Holub, EW.com, "The best new comics to read in September: Stories of swords and magic," 4 Sep. 2020 His narrative and statistics refuted the statements made by the influential European naturalist George-Louis Leclerc, the Comte de Buffon, that all aspects of the New World were smaller, weaker and more degenerate than their European counterparts. Eleanor Jones Harvey, Smithsonian Magazine, "Who Was Alexander von Humboldt?," 24 Mar. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The event would quickly degenerate into brawls, just what some of the Proud Boys had anticipated. New York Times, "Police Shrugged Off the Proud Boys, Until They Attacked the Capitol," 14 Mar. 2021 Some meetings degenerate relatively quickly because someone says something that causes feelings to get hurt. Ross Levin, Star Tribune, "Learning to handle disorder is key facet of solid financial planning," 27 Feb. 2021 The former Portuguese prime minister warned world leaders that the U.S.-China competition could degenerate into a global divide that brings the risk of major military conflict. Joel Gehrke, Washington Examiner, "Biden urges allies to join ‘stiff’ competition with China in first address to world leaders," 19 Feb. 2021 Iota is forecast to weaken to a tropical storm Tuesday afternoon, a tropical depression Tuesday night and degenerate into a remnant low pressure area on Wednesday. Carlie Wells, NOLA.com, "Tropical depression could form by this weekend in Caribbean, hurricane forecasters say," 17 Nov. 2020 When fulfillment replaces frustration, social structures degenerate into flattened planes of existence, free of friction. Corey Robin, The New Yorker, "The Professor and the Politician," 12 Nov. 2020 The right temporal lobe in the brain is the last area to degenerate. John Benson, cleveland, "Active For Life music programs helping Alzheimer’s and dementia patients dance and sing again," 12 Nov. 2020 Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović noted similarly overcrowded conditions on other Greek islands and said the situation could degenerate there too. The Christian Science Monitor, "Fires, protests at refugee camp signal wake-up call for Europe," 11 Sep. 2020 Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović noted similarly overcrowded conditions on other Greek islands and said the situation could degenerate there too. The Christian Science Monitor, "Fires, protests at refugee camp signal wake-up call for Europe," 11 Sep. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun In his most famous exchange from the movie, Sally Kellerman’s Margaret Houlihan wonders how such a degenerate doctor as Donald Sutherland’s Hawkeye Pierce could reach a position of responsibility in the U.S. Army. Andrew Dealton, USA TODAY, "Actor René Auberjonois, known for 'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,' ‘Benson,’ has died at 79," 8 Dec. 2019 Adam Sandler plays a lying degenerate gambler in Uncut Gems, which in its sordid candor turns out to be one of the grabbiest films of the year. Kyle Smith, National Review, "The Gonzo New York Movie Experience," 11 Dec. 2019 In his most famous exchange from the movie, Sally Kellerman's Margaret Houlihan wonders how such a degenerate doctor as Donald Sutherland's Hawkeye Pierce could reach a position of responsibility in the U.S. Army. CBS News, "René Auberjonois, "Benson," "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" actor, has died at age 79," 8 Dec. 2019 Besides, too great a concern with origin degenerates too easily into a concern with purity, and folklore is most impure. Kevin Young, The New Yorker, "Ralph Ellison’s Slow-Burning Art," 2 Dec. 2019 Not just for dog owners, this fundraiser party offers athletes and degenerates alike a chance to try many local brews, meet some canine companions and support one of the region’s leading animal service organizations. Sameer Rao, baltimoresun.com, "10 Oktoberfests in and around Baltimore where you can celebrate beer," 1 Oct. 2019 For once, women whom mainstream society habitually ignored were being represented in pop culture as individuals with virtues and flaws, rather than as a monolithic mass of degenerates or vixens. Time, "Orange Is the New Black Is the Decade's Most Important Show," 22 July 2019 By successfully propping up the degenerate Assad regime, the Kremlin gained veto on any possible political solution to Syria and got a meaningful foothold in the broader region. Fox News, "Mainstream media hysterics over Helsinki meeting," 18 July 2018 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

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, Verb, and Noun

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

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Time Traveler for degenerate

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for degenerate

Cite this Entry

“Degenerate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/degenerate. Accessed 13 Apr. 2021.

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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)

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

degenerate

adjective
de·​gen·​er·​ate | \ di-ˈjen-(ə-)rət How to pronounce degenerate (audio) \

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 How to pronounce degenerate (audio) \
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 How to pronounce degenerate (audio) \

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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