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

Keep scrolling for more

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 But the degeneration of some racial justice protests into rioting, looting, and lawlessness has the potential to swing some voters back to Trump. W. James Antle Iii, Washington Examiner, "Trump playing catch-up as campaign reaches traditional Labor Day kickoff," 7 Sep. 2020 Cohen and Klee’s thought, back then, was that the drug combination might ultimately help stave off the degeneration associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Meghana Keshavan, STAT, "Experimental drug for ALS, dreamed up in a dorm room, offers patients glimmer of hope," 2 Sep. 2020 Once the degeneration of the cartilage lining a joint begins, there is no treatment available to restore it. Gina Kolata, Star Tribune, "Cartilage is grown in arthritic joints of mice," 27 Aug. 2020 In fact, a May 2013 review in Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care shows that fast-twitch muscle fibers are more vulnerable than their slow-twitch counterparts for atrophy and degeneration. Tiffany Ayuda,, "What Are Fast-Twitch Muscle Fibers and Why Is it Important to Keep Them Strong?," 15 June 2020 Alzheimer’s disease progresses at varying rates, but over time, the degeneration of neurons in the brain leads to an inability to remember or recognize even familiar people or surroundings. Paul Bayfield, National Geographic, "For dementia patients and their families, isolation during the pandemic is a heavy burden," 9 June 2020 These changes are ultimately followed by cell death and brain degeneration, which prompted suspicions that beta-amyloid was a cause. Tanya Lewis, Scientific American, "A Harder Look at Alzheimer’s Causes and Treatments," 30 Apr. 2020 Gradual brain degeneration causes uncontrollable movements and can bring mental and psychological problems. Denise Grady, New York Times, "A Second Interview With Dr. Nancy Wexler, 30 Years Later," 10 Mar. 2020 But heart degeneration that began with a viral infection gradually put him at risk of death. Don Stacom,, "Mother of Stafford organ donor: ‘Katie is still here, she’s still helping people’," 17 Sep. 2019

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.

See More

First Known Use of degeneration

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for degeneration

see degenerate entry 1

Keep scrolling for more

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

Statistics for degeneration

Last Updated

16 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Degeneration.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Sep. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

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)

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on degeneration

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


Test Your Vocabulary

Challenging Vocabulary Quiz Returns!

  • stylized drawing of woman pole vaulting across gap to get trophy
  • Which is a synonym of fuliginous?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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