deg·​ra·​da·​tion | \ ˌde-grə-ˈdā-shən How to pronounce degradation (audio) \

Definition of degradation

1 : the act or process of degrading environmental degradation the gradual degradation of organic matter … nothing infuriates the female students more than the degradation of women that is associated with male sports …— Scott Stossel suffer the degradations of poverty and abuse
2a : decline to a low, destitute, or demoralized state shocked by the hopeless degradation of the "poor whites"— Edith Wharton Some houses are found spotless, others in a wretched degradation— Paul Reyes
b : moral or intellectual decadence : degeneration educated him in the bestiality and degradation that war brings— Drew Middleton

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Other Words from degradation

degradative \ ˈde-​grə-​ˌdā-​tiv How to pronounce degradative (audio) \ adjective

Examples of degradation in a Sentence

English teachers bemoaning the degradation of the language that e-mail and instant messaging have allegedly brought about. the belief that moral degradation is an unmistakable sign of a nation in decline
Recent Examples on the Web This seems especially urgent at a time when those displaced by environmental degradation still have no formal refugee status under international law. Aaron Timms, The New Republic, "Making Life Cheap," 18 May 2020 Yonkes, Chicano slang for junkyards, and other blight-causing operations proliferated, resulting not only in the loss of residential structures but in harmful environmental degradation. Eduardo Díaz, Smithsonian Magazine, "Fifty Years Ago, Fed Up With the City’s Neglect, a San Diego Community Rose Up to Create Chicano Park," 28 Apr. 2020 However, community members have now filed court cases seeking reparations for environmental degradation, so the story continues to unfold. Holly Eva Ryan, Quartz Africa, "Anti-Chinese protests in a Gambian fishing village show conflict of foreign investment in Africa," 27 June 2019 Climate change, coastal habitat degradation and intense fishing are examples. F. Joel Fodrie, The Conversation, "Coastal fish populations didn’t crash after the Deepwater Horizon spill – why not?," 16 Apr. 2020 The main threats to spectacled bears throughout the region are hunting and habitat loss and degradation. 6. Fox News, "10 different kinds of bear: Everything you need to know about the huge mammals," 10 Mar. 2020 China is grappling with an ageing population, environmental degradation and a slowing economy. The Economist, "Chinese technology With the state’s help, Chinese technology is booming," 27 Dec. 2019 In that novel, all the people in an unnamed city lose their physical sight, and the place swiftly descends into hellish depths of degradation and despair. Jia Tolentino, The New Yorker, "How “The Memory Police” Makes You See," 6 Nov. 2019 The secession of the very rich, the isolation of the well-off, the degradation of social capital by inequality: these truths become sharply self-evident now. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, "The Coronavirus Crisis Reveals New York at Its Best and Worst," 23 Mar. 2020

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

circa 1535, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for degradation

see degrade

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Time Traveler for degradation

Time Traveler

The first known use of degradation was circa 1535

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Statistics for degradation

Last Updated

21 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Degradation.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for degradation


How to pronounce degradation (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of degradation

somewhat formal
: the act or process of damaging or ruining something
: the act of treating someone or something poorly and without respect


deg·​ra·​da·​tion | \ ˌdeg-rə-ˈdā-shən How to pronounce degradation (audio) \

Medical Definition of degradation

: change of a chemical compound to a less complex compound

Other Words from degradation

degradative \ ˈdeg-​rə-​ˌdāt-​iv How to pronounce degradative (audio) \ adjective

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More from Merriam-Webster on degradation

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for degradation

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with degradation

Spanish Central: Translation of degradation

Nglish: Translation of degradation for Spanish Speakers

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