degrade

verb
de·​grade | \ di-ˈgrād How to pronounce degrade (audio) , dē- \
degraded; degrading; degrades

Definition of degrade

transitive verb

1a : to lower in grade, rank, or status : demote
b : to strip of rank or honors
c : to lower to an inferior or less effective level degrade the image quality
d : to scale down in desirability or salability
2a : to bring to low esteem or into disrepute his actions have degraded his profession punishments intended to humiliate and degrade prisoners
b : to drag down in moral or intellectual character : corrupt the Indians who consume peyote buttons do not seem to be … morally degraded by the habit— Aldous Huxley
3 : to impair in respect to some physical property material degraded by exposure to sunlight
4 geology : to wear down by erosion degraded the hillside
5 chemistry : to reduce the complexity of (a chemical compound) : decompose

intransitive verb

1 : to pass from a higher grade or class to a lower causes the meat to degrade in quality
2 of a chemical compound : to become reduced in complexity plastics that don't easily degrade

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Other Words from degrade

degrader noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for degrade

Synonyms

Antonyms

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Did You Know?

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.

Examples of degrade in a Sentence

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.
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Recent Examples on the Web Plastic takes decades to degrade and microscopic particles have been found inside the bodies of fish, birds and other animals. USA TODAY, "Germany is banning single-use plastic straws, cotton buds and food containers," 31 July 2020 Ford also believes that the fast charging required to run a fleet of self-driving cars would degrade the electric battery too quickly. Aarian Marshall, Wired, "The Intersection Between Self-Driving Cars and Electric Cars," 13 July 2020 Ossorio is concerned that trust in science will degrade if opportunities are wasted and misinformation continues. Jordan Nutting, USA TODAY, "Coronavirus is revolutionizing scientific practices and communication. Here's how," 7 July 2020 Longer term, the fires might also degrade the permafrost by removing upper layers of soil that act as an insulating barrier, a process that has been well documented in boreal forests. Madeleine Stone, National Geographic, "A heat wave thawed Siberia's tundra. Now, it's on fire.," 6 July 2020 And though the West Coast’s bedrock won’t degrade as rapidly as Hawaii’s coral reefs, Storlazzi says that sea level rise could nonetheless bring wave breaks closer to shore and aggravate flooding and erosion. Molly Glick, Popular Science, "Pro surfers hit artificial waves in the heat of the climate crisis," 30 June 2020 But if things don’t change in this part of Antioquia, its ecosystems could degrade as agriculture continues to expand. Alexandra Ossola, Quartz, "To save a nearly extinct bird, Colombians are rethinking one of their biggest economic engines," 13 June 2020 There is some evidence that certain meds can be less potent in space and radiation may even degrade medications—but really, experts just aren’t sure. Troy Farah, Ars Technica, "Vicodin, ketamine, and caffeine: The ingredients of a good space pharmacy," 8 June 2020 One voice uses a racial slur and stereotype to degrade Floyd. Annysa Johnson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Arrowhead bars senior from commencement for 'vulgar and racist' video about George Floyd," 4 June 2020

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

History and Etymology for degrade

Middle English, from Anglo-French degrader, from Late Latin degradare, from Latin de- + gradus step, grade — more at grade entry 1

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Time Traveler for degrade

Time Traveler

The first known use of degrade was in the 14th century

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Statistics for degrade

Last Updated

6 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Degrade.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/degrade. Accessed 11 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for degrade

degrade

verb
How to pronounce degrade (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of degrade

: to treat (someone or something) poorly and without respect
: to make the quality of (something) worse
technical : to cause (something complex) to break down into simple substances or parts

degrade

verb
de·​grade | \ di-ˈgrād How to pronounce degrade (audio) \
degraded; degrading

Kids Definition of degrade

1 : to lower in character or dignity Mom feels that dressing animals in costumes degrades them.
2 : to break down or separate into simpler parts or substances Bacteria will degrade the spilled pollutant.
3 : to reduce from a higher to a lower rank or degree He was degraded to a private by his commander.
de·​grade | \ di-ˈgrād How to pronounce degrade (audio) \
degraded; degrading

Medical Definition of degrade

: to reduce the complexity of (a chemical compound) by splitting off one or more groups or larger components : decompose cellulose is degraded by the action of some bacteria

intransitive verb

: to undergo chemical degradation

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More from Merriam-Webster on degrade

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for degrade

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with degrade

Spanish Central: Translation of degrade

Nglish: Translation of degrade for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of degrade for Arabic Speakers

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