de·​gen·​er·​a·​tion | \ di-ˌje-nə-ˈrā-shən How to pronounce degeneration (audio) , ˌdē- \

Definition of degeneration

1 : degenerate (see degenerate entry 1) condition
2 : a lowering of effective power, vitality, or essential quality to an enfeebled and worsened kind or state the country's degeneration into chaos … enacts the degeneration of politics into televisual entertainment …— Linda Holt
3 : intellectual, moral, or artistic decline Many of her stories show the degeneration of a principled person into a lethal one …— Susannah Clapp … argue that the tradition has radically devolved, and that books like "The Kiss," by Kathryn Harrison, represent the degeneration of a once ennobled form.— Deborah E. McDowell
4 biology
a : progressive deterioration of physical characters from a level representing the norm of earlier generations or forms
b : deterioration of a tissue or an organ in which its function is diminished or its structure is impaired a degeneration of cartilage

Choose the Right Synonym for degeneration

deterioration, degeneration, decadence, decline mean the falling from a higher to a lower level in quality, character, or vitality. deterioration implies generally the impairment of value or usefulness. the deterioration of the house through neglect degeneration stresses physical, intellectual, or especially moral retrogression. the degeneration of their youthful idealism into cynicism decadence presupposes a reaching and passing the peak of development and implies a turn downward with a consequent loss in vitality or energy. cited love of luxury as a sign of cultural decadence decline differs from decadence in suggesting a more markedly downward direction and greater momentum as well as more obvious evidence of deterioration. the meteoric decline of his career after the scandal

Examples of degeneration in a Sentence

the organization's degeneration from a movement for political reform to just another political party the troubling degeneration of his memory since he reached middle age
Recent Examples on the Web Poor posture can lead to injuries, spinal problems, joints degeneration, rounded shoulders and a potbelly. Ebony Williams, ajc, 3 May 2022 The cause was senile degeneration of the brain, said a daughter, Kathryn Baird. Washington Post, 7 Apr. 2022 Synthetic musk compounds disrupt hormonal function, interfere with endocrine processes, and are linked to both neural degeneration and infertility. Grooming Playbook, The Salt Lake Tribune, 31 Mar. 2022 Our minds play tricks on us, so that signs of degeneration can go unnoticed for years and then come into focus as harbingers of doom. Rachael Bedard, The New Yorker, 6 Mar. 2022 Predisposition to osteoarthritis is a factor in knee and hip degeneration. Outside Online, 23 Apr. 2019 Anolik said the cause was Huntington’s disease, which causes a progressive degeneration of nerve cells in the brain. Washington Post, 19 Dec. 2021 Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson had stage 2 CTE, a form of brain degeneration that has been found in other athletes, his family said. NBC News, 16 Dec. 2021 Adopted from Romania, Michael Johnson had been diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, a genetic disorder that causes degeneration. Rusty Simmons, San Francisco Chronicle, 30 Oct. 2021 See More

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

First Known Use of degeneration

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for degeneration

see degenerate entry 1

Learn More About degeneration

Time Traveler for degeneration

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near degeneration



degeneration disease

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for degeneration

Last Updated

8 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Degeneration.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for degeneration


de·​gen·​er·​a·​tion | \ di-ˌjen-ə-ˈrā-shən, ˌdē- How to pronounce degeneration (audio) \

Medical Definition of degeneration

1 : intellectual or moral decline tending toward dissolution of character or integrity : a progressive worsening of personal adjustment
2a : progressive deterioration of physical characters from a level representing the norm of earlier generations or forms : regression of the morphology of a group or kind of organism toward a simpler less highly organized state parasitism leads to degeneration
b : deterioration of a tissue or an organ in which its vitality is diminished or its structure impaired especially : deterioration in which specialized cells are replaced by less specialized cells (as in fibrosis or in malignancies) or in which cells are functionally impaired (as by deposition of abnormal matter in the tissue)

More from Merriam-Webster on degeneration

Nglish: Translation of degeneration for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of degeneration for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Which Word Does Not Belong?

  • one green toy robot amidst many red toy robots
  • Which of these words does not mean "nonsense"?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!