degeneration

noun de·gen·er·a·tion \ di-ˌje-nə-ˈrā-shən , ˌdē- \
Updated on: 9 Nov 2017

Definition of degeneration

1 : degenerate (see 1degenerate) 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

Examples of degeneration in a Sentence

  1. the organization's degeneration from a movement for political reform to just another political party

  2. the troubling degeneration of his memory since he reached middle age

Recent Examples of degeneration from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of degeneration

Synonym Discussion of 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

Medical Dictionary

degeneration

noun de·gen·er·a·tion \ di-ˌjen-ə-ˈrā-shən, ˌdē- \

medical Definition of degeneration

1 : intellectual or moral decline tending toward dissolution of character or integrity : a progressive worsening of personal adjustment
2 a : 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)


Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up degeneration? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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

WORD OF THE DAY

of very fine texture or delicate form

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Star Wars Words Quiz

  • cu-jedi-training
  • The bounty portion of bounty hunters (such as Boba Fett) comes from a Latin word meaning
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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