of a chemical compound: to become reduced in complexity
plastics that don't easily degrade
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In Shakespeare's King Lear, the old king is degraded by the daughters he has given his kingdom to. He finds it degrading, for instance, when the number of his guards is reduced from 100 to 25. His degradation seems complete when, after going mad, he's reduced to living in the wilderness. As you can see, degrade is often a synonym for humiliate.
The group accuses the company of degrading women in its ads.
He felt degraded by their remarks.
Scratches on a camera lens will degrade the image.
Pollution has degraded air quality.
Recent Examples on the WebWhat that means, aside from the loss of some pretty important bodily tissues, is that waste produced while breaking down your own tissues begins to degrade your organs.—Christine Peterson, Outdoor Life, 29 Nov. 2023 Undo the damage done by engineering projects that degraded the famed ecosystem to half its original size.—Tony Schick, ProPublica, 17 Nov. 2023 But as Israeli forces have pushed deep into the Gaza Strip and communications infrastructure has been degraded, contact with hospitals has buckled and systematic data collection has become more problematic, the ministry said.—NBC News, 16 Nov. 2023 Members of the Bailey family, relatives of Douglass who remained on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, say the piece is degrading.—Petula Dvorak, Washington Post, 16 Nov. 2023 In contrast to using nuclear weapons to destroy an adversary’s nuclear forces—a step that would almost guarantee nuclear retaliation—these arms allow the attacker to degrade or even destroy the adversary’s nuclear arsenal without crossing the nuclear threshold.—M. Taylor Fravel, Foreign Affairs, 10 Nov. 2023 For Greenland, many factors are conspiring to degrade the ice sheet: hotter air and ocean temperatures, less sea ice, and weaker ice shelves to hold back the glaciers on land.—WIRED, 7 Nov. 2023 An earlier conflict in 2014 had degraded but not knocked out Gaza's web connections.—Drew Fitzgerald, WSJ, 28 Oct. 2023 Worsening wildfires are also threatening homes and degrading air quality.—Hayley Smith, Los Angeles Times, 14 Nov. 2023 See More
These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'degrade.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.
Middle English, from Anglo-French degrader, from Late Latin degradare, from Latin de- + gradus step, grade — more at grade entry 1