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 Fifty-nine percent think the environment will be degraded. Kate Julian, The Atlantic, "The Anxious Child," 14 Apr. 2020 Every school now is doing online distance learning and using the platform—yet the quality of Zoom calls have not degraded over the last month. Lucinda Shen, Fortune, "What GGV Capital’s Hans Tung is investing in during the pandemic," 27 Mar. 2020 To fix the recall, dealers will replace the door latch with one that doesn't degrade in high temperatures. Colin Beresford, Car and Driver, "Ford Recalls 250,000 Fiesta, Fusion, Lincoln MKZ Cars for Faulty Door Latch," 25 Mar. 2020 That’s not to degrade anybody who covers it as a sport, but there is rarely an emphasis on who these people are. Mike Jones, USA TODAY, "'Stay ready': Inside DeMaurice Smith, NFLPA's meeting with Chiefs players on CBA discussions," 15 Oct. 2019 Use adjectives that are at least three syllables long to degrade any attempt to disagree with you, like outrageous, unreasonable, ludicrous, preposterous and incongruous. Doug Lesmerises, cleveland, "Turn your child into a sports columnist -- kids, send hot takes on the Browns, Buckeyes, Indians and Cavs," 31 Mar. 2020 So a simple soap scrub will annihilate any viruses in your car, and soap is unlikely to degrade your interior surfaces the way many cleaners can. Car and Driver, "How to Clean Your Car for Coronavirus," 12 Mar. 2020 The original enzyme comes from bacteria discovered recently in the soil around a Japanese recycling plant — the first bacteria known to degrade plastic. Scientific American, "Breathing new life into renewable energy," 9 Oct. 2019 Haynes and Moore communicate the paranoia that each new symptom provokes in Carol, and show how her efforts to self-quarantine begin to degrade her mental health. David Sims, The Atlantic, "22 Movies About the End of the World to Watch Now," 18 Apr. 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

22 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Degrade.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/degrade. Accessed 31 May. 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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