de·​gen·​er·​a·​tive di-ˈje-nə-rə-tiv How to pronounce degenerative (audio)
: of, relating to, involving, or causing degeneration
a degenerative disease

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Degenerative diseases—including cancer, glaucoma, Parkinson's, diabetes, arthritis, and leprosy—are usually contrasted with infectious diseases (diseases caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa). However, many infectious diseases (Lyme disease, AIDS, etc.) can cause a body or body part to degenerate, and infective organisms play a part in some degenerative diseases. Some degenerative diseases can be controlled; some can even be cured. But no one has yet discovered a way to reverse such degenerative conditions as multiple sclerosis, emphysema, or Alzheimer's.

Examples of degenerative in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Doctors initially doubted whether Hill would be able to walk normally due to degenerative spinal disease. Lawrence Dow, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 6 Feb. 2024 Moreover, Cats Protection worried that more Scottish Folds will be bred to meet demand generated by the film, which would be bad because the breed tends towards serious degenerative joint disease. Leslie Felperin, The Hollywood Reporter, 31 Jan. 2024 The initial aim is to help someone who has had a stroke or who has a motor degenerative disease like ALS or other physical problems communicate directly through the implant to an outside device like a phone, tablet or computer. Jen Christensen, CNN, 30 Jan. 2024 However, this sloped appearance can lead to issues with their hips such as degenerative myelopathy — a condition that begins with weakness in limbs and can progress to paralysis of both hind legs. Joshua Rapp Learn, Discover Magazine, 15 Dec. 2023 Then he was diagnosed with degenerative hip osteoarthritis during spring training of 2001 and never played again. Chuck Murr, Forbes, 11 Dec. 2023 The degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is tied to concussions and brain trauma but cannot be diagnosed until a person is deceased and their brain can be studied. Steve Henson, Los Angeles Times, 17 Jan. 2024 Several high-profile examples of former players – most notably the suicide of legendary NFL linebacker Junior Seau who suffered from a degenerative brain disease – have prompted the NFL down to youth leagues to try to make tackling safer. Calmatters, The Mercury News, 17 Jan. 2024 The artist, who won 11 Grammys during her career, retired from singing after being diagnosed with progressive supranuclear palsy, a degenerative disease. Aaron Couch, The Hollywood Reporter, 14 Jan. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'degenerative.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

circa 1846, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of degenerative was circa 1846

Dictionary Entries Near degenerative

Cite this Entry

“Degenerative.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


de·​gen·​er·​a·​tive di-ˈjen-ə-ˌrāt-iv How to pronounce degenerative (audio)
: of, relating to, or tending to cause degeneration
a degenerative disease

Medical Definition


de·​gen·​er·​a·​tive di-ˈjen-ə-ˌrāt-iv How to pronounce degenerative (audio) -ˈjen-(ə-)rət- How to pronounce degenerative (audio)
: of, relating to, involving, or tending to cause degeneration
degenerative conditions of the nervous systemMorris Fishbein
degenerative changes
a degenerative muscle disorder

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