de·​gen·​er·​a·​tive | \ di-ˈje-nə-rə-tiv How to pronounce degenerative (audio) , -ˈjen-rə-; -ˈje-nə-ˌrā-; dē- \

Definition of degenerative

: of, relating to, involving, or causing degeneration a degenerative disease

Keep scrolling for more

Did You Know?

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 The scientists say these results bode well for future research, because neurogenesis could help treat a variety of degenerative diseases of the brain and might even help mental illnesses like major depression. Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics, "Ayahuasca Could Do Something Amazing to Your Brain, Study Shows," 10 Nov. 2020 In Season 1, Zoey was dealing with the decline of her father, Mitch (Peter Gallagher), who was dying of a degenerative disease. Kelly Lawler, USA TODAY, "Review: 'Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist' sings and dances back into our hearts for Season 2," 6 Jan. 2021 The cause was amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a degenerative neurological disease that leads to paralysis. Washington Post, "Rebecca Luker, Tony-nominated Broadway singer and actress, dies at 59," 25 Dec. 2020 Despite developing the degenerative disease in her 40s, Aliria Rosa Piedrahita de Villegas was largely spared of the symptoms well into her 70s because of a double mutation in her brain. Los Angeles Times, "Latinx Files: Why we need a Latino museum," 17 Dec. 2020 Arvo's health problems since his service at the base include breast tumors, which are relatively unusual in men; kidney surgeries; severe headaches, a degenerative brain condition and a recent diagnosis of cancer of the spine. Keith Matheny, Detroit Free Press, "Feds: Wurtsmith veterans could get cancer, other health problems from tainted base water," 20 Nov. 2020 Several parents have sued sperm banks after discovering that their donor may have undesirable genes, in cases where their children developed conditions such as autism or a degenerative nerve disease. Sarah Zhang, The Atlantic, "The Last Children of Down Syndrome," 18 Nov. 2020 The Palm Springs Desert Sun reported that Heckmann died from complications related to multiple system atrophy, a degenerative neurological disorder similar to Parkinson's disease. Jeremy Cluff, The Arizona Republic, "Phoenix Suns co-owner Richard Heckmann, successful businessman, philanthropist, dies at 76," 3 Nov. 2020 Stiles is one of a number of ex-footballers diagnosed with dementia and his death has intensified the debate surrounding the sport's worrying relationship with degenerative brain disease. George Ramsay, CNN, "Why football needs a 'global game approach' to tackle the risk of degenerative brain disease," 9 Nov. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'degenerative.' 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 degenerative

circa 1846, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about degenerative

Time Traveler for degenerative

Time Traveler

The first known use of degenerative was circa 1846

See more words from the same year

Statistics for degenerative

Last Updated

14 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Degenerative.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Mar. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLA Chicago APA Merriam-Webster

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for degenerative



English Language Learners Definition of degenerative

medical : causing the body or part of the body to become weaker or less able to function as time passes


de·​gen·​er·​a·​tive | \ di-ˈjen-ə-ˌrāt-iv How to pronounce degenerative (audio) , -ˈjen-(ə-)rət- How to pronounce degenerative (audio) \

Medical Definition of degenerative

: of, relating to, involving, or tending to cause degeneration degenerative conditions of the nervous system— Morris Fishbein degenerative changes a degenerative muscle disorder

More from Merriam-Webster on degenerative

Nglish: Translation of degenerative for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of degenerative for Arabic Speakers

Comments on degenerative

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


Test Your Vocabulary

February 2021 Words of the Day Quiz

  • squirrel in winter
  • Which is a synonym of perdure?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

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!