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, 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 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

decadent, decayed, effete, overripe, washed-up

Synonyms: Verb

atrophy, crumble, decay, decline, descend, deteriorate, devolve, ebb, regress, retrograde, rot, sink, worsen

Synonyms: Noun

backslider, debauchee, debaucher, decadent, deviate, libertine, perv, pervert, profligate, rake, rakehell, rip

Antonyms: Adjective

undecadent

Antonyms: Verb

ameliorate, improve, meliorate

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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

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 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

This is due to atresia, the ASRM explains, or the natural process through which follicles that house eggs in the ovaries degenerate and die. Natasha Lavender, SELF, "So, Let’s Talk About That Whole Fertility and Age 35 Thing," 22 Aug. 2019 Hundreds of police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to beat back protesters, as demonstrations against China’s encroachment on the city’s legal autonomy degenerated into running battles in the middle of the financial hub. Mike Bird, WSJ, "Hong Kong Police Fire Tear Gas, Rubber Bullets at Protesters," 12 June 2019 On Friday, Chantal was a depression in the open waters nearly 800 miles west of the Azores and is forecast to degenerate into a remnant low by tonight and fully dissipate by late in the weekend. David Selig, sun-sentinel.com, "Hurricane center: Tropical depression likely as storm approaches Florida; second system also on its way," 23 Aug. 2019 Its First Republic, that of 1792, degenerated into mass murder, then tyranny and the Napoleonic wars, the grandly humane ambition of Liberté, égalité, fraternité unrealized. Christopher Ketcham, Harper's magazine, "A Play with No End," 22 July 2019 Gabrielle, which degenerated to post-tropical status far off in the Atlantic, became a tropical storm again and is expected to strengthen on Sunday, but is not projected to be a threat to South Florida. Ron Hurtibise, sun-sentinel.com, "Gabrielle again a tropical storm; doesn’t pose a threat to Florida, hurricane center says," 8 Sep. 2019 As the area degenerated into Skid Row, its recreational facilities disappeared. Gary Kamiya, SFChronicle.com, "SF ‘hobohemia’ transformed into Skid Row as jobs and city changed," 10 Aug. 2019 Much vodka had been consumed by this point, and plot discussions degenerated into mass hysterics. Ceridwen Dovey, The New Yorker, "Can You Write a Novel as a Group?," 30 Aug. 2019 City Council meetings have degenerated into tag-team verbal brawls. Los Angeles Times, "Could verbal brawls and rants ruin Westminster’s Vietnamese American council majority?," 28 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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 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

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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Statistics for degenerate

Last Updated

30 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

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)

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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