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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from degrade

degrader noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for degrade

Synonyms

Antonyms

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web The compounds, which spread easily through water and do not break down or degrade in the environment, have been found in wells across Wisconsin, including Milwaukee, Eau Claire, Madison and La Crosse. Laura Schulte, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 24 July 2021 Typical surgeries are common, but costly and invasive, and Johns says that conventional fillers often degrade before the body can repair itself. Max G. Levy, Wired, 28 June 2021 To drive the point home, Apple sent a letter to House lawmakers Tuesday and released a white paper Wednesday arguing that allowing others to sell access to iOS apps would degrade user privacy and security. Brian Fung And Clare Duffy, CNN, 23 June 2021 The company said Thursday that a bushing that attaches the shifter cable to the transmission can degrade or fall off. Chron, 27 May 2021 The foam can degrade and cause harmful effects when cleaned in the wrong way or when exposed to high heat and humidity. Nathan Bomey, USA TODAY, 15 June 2021 The bushing that attaches the shifter cable to the transmission may degrade or detach. Detroit Free Press, 5 June 2021 Once Hamas starts one of these rocket offensives, Israel has an obligation to its own people to degrade the threat. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 16 May 2021 Fracking can degrade water quality and may elevate maternal stress due to its noise and light pollution. Chelsea Clinton, STAT, 29 Apr. 2021

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About degrade

Time Traveler for degrade

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near degrade

degradation of energy

degrade

degraded

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for degrade

Last Updated

26 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Degrade.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/degrade. Accessed 2 Aug. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for degrade

degrade

verb

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.

degrade

transitive verb
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

More from Merriam-Webster on degrade

Nglish: Translation of degrade for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of degrade for Arabic Speakers

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Spelling Words Quiz

  • alphabet pasta spelling help
  • Which is the correct spelling?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!