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

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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 Other types of dementia include frontotemporal degeneration, Lewy body dementia and vascular cognitive impairment. Paula Spencer Scott, Star Tribune, "8 myths about dementia that it's time to forget," 24 Feb. 2021 Compounding their woes, Moth, then 53, was diagnosed with corticobasal degeneration and given about two years to live. Heller Mcalpin, WSJ, "‘The Wild Silence’ Review: Land’s End," 26 Mar. 2021 Many had lost most of their teeth or suffered periodontal disease and joint degeneration. David Grimm, Science | AAAS, "Graves of nearly 600 cats and dogs in ancient Egypt may be world’s oldest pet cemetery," 26 Feb. 2021 Exercise has been shown to prevent the degeneration of brain tissue in patients with MS whereas smoking and diets low in antioxidants are associated with a worsening of the disease. Bret Stetka, Scientific American, "Think of Multiple Sclerosis as a Leaking Swimming Pool," 18 June 2015 The theme of Platonic degeneration, which assumes that behind every reproduction is some enduring idea which might somehow be recovered, has given way to the theme of entropy, the inevitable slide from order to chaos. Christopher Beha, Harper's Magazine, "Because God Did Not Relax," 27 Oct. 2020 In fact, this is precisely what happens in people with eye degeneration, patients confined to a tank-respirator, and prisoners in solitary confinement. David Eagleman, Time, "Why Do We Dream? A New Theory on How It Protects Our Brains," 29 Dec. 2020 Such always involves cultural entropy, a degeneration of the culture, because, of course, there really is nothing worth communicating from one generation to the next. Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review, "Why Identity-Politics Pushers Are Winning the Culture Wars," 30 Nov. 2020 Over time, these symptoms develop, leading to more noticeable weakness or atrophy (degeneration or shrinkage of muscle or nerve tissue). Claire Gillespie,, "Patrick Quinn, ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Co-Founder, Dies at 37—What to Know About the Disease," 23 Nov. 2020

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.

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First Known Use of degeneration

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for degeneration

see degenerate entry 1

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Time Traveler for degeneration

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

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Last Updated

14 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Degeneration.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Apr. 2021.

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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)

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