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 Although psychological substance runs slim, Akin renders most mainstream depictions of degenerate minds lighthearted. Carlos Aguilar, Los Angeles Times, "Review: Fatih Akin’s serial-killer saga ‘The Golden Glove’ pushes the limits of repulsion," 3 Oct. 2019 This idea suggests that there are degenerate assemblies for each behavior, even in the same situation. Dean Mobbs, Scientific American, "On the Nature of Fear," 20 Sep. 2019 Theo stashes it away, hiding it from his ad hoc foster family and from his degenerate addict father (Luke Wilson), who whisks him away from New York City to a Las Vegas suburb on the edge of the desert. Katie Walsh, chicagotribune.com, "‘The Goldfinch’ review: Floundering adaptation should be a slam dunk, but its central mystery is something to be endured, rather than solved," 12 Sep. 2019 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 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Susceptibility can degenerate into a compulsion, especially when random disaster strikes. Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, "Corona Conspiracies," 13 Apr. 2020 These are the symptoms, not the cause, of Canada’s degenerating democracy. BostonGlobe.com, "IT’S NOT THE image Americans would associate with a Canadian federal election: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, his bespoke suit stretched tight by hefty and conspicuous body armor, surrounded by a phalanx of bug-eyed uniformed tactical officers.," 26 Oct. 2019 Protests by island residents last week over the situation degenerated into clashes with riot police on Lesbos and Chios. Andrew Wilks, BostonGlobe.com, "Turkey, Syria fighting escalates; refugees mass at EU border," 1 Mar. 2020 As a result, when the time came for applause, the ovation degenerated into an escalation of insults. Itxu Díaz, National Review, "Coronavirus Is Forcing Europe to Rediscover Civil Society," 2 Apr. 2020 On Wednesday, protests degenerated into violence, with hundreds of demonstrators attacking police guarding the building sites of future migrant detention camps on Chios and Lesbos. Washington Post, "Greek island residents protest for 4th day over migrant plan," 27 Feb. 2020 Talks degenerated when the sides hired auditing firms to decide on facility standards and came up with different results. BostonGlobe.com, "SAN DIEGO — Major League Baseball has been taking a beating over its minor league contraction proposal that would strip 42 teams of their major league affiliations.," 12 Dec. 2019 But what began as a peaceful demonstration followed the usual pattern and degenerated into violence, arson and destruction. Time, "Unrest Continues Unabated in Hong Kong as March on Rail Terminus Degenerates into Arson and Street Battles," 20 Oct. 2019 Others degenerated into vicious attacks, with users accusing each other of price-gouging or fraud. Mara Hvistendahl, Wired, "‘Everybody and His Dog Is Trying to Sell Medical Equipment’," 17 Apr. 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 8 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for degenerate

degenerate

adjective
How to pronounce degenerate (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of degenerate

 (Entry 1 of 3)

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

degenerate

verb
How to pronounce degenerate (audio)

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
How to pronounce degenerate (audio)

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
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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