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

break, bust, demote, disrate, downgrade, reduce

Antonyms

advance, elevate, promote, raise

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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

Mineral sunscreens that contain zinc or titanium are usually more stable, but the formulation can degrade over time, causing separation of ingredients and causing the lotion to become grainy or watery and, therefore, not properly effective. Jenna Rennert, Vogue, "Does Sunscreen Expire? And Every Other Question You’ve Had About SPF, Answered," 14 May 2019 But shoes tend to degrade over time, not in an instant. Mengqi Sun, WSJ, "Nike’s Blowout Underscores How Perception of Safety and Quality Can Affect Reputation," 21 Feb. 2019 At least 33,000 have degraded the environment, according to the Government Accountability Office, and thousands more are discovered every year. Matthew Brown, The Seattle Times, "50M gallons of polluted water pours daily from US mine sites," 20 Feb. 2019 At the same time, the image itself degraded, growing more compressed and watermarked with more layers of text scribbled out and written over again. Verge Staff, The Verge, "The best memes of 2018, according to The Verge staff," 27 Dec. 2018 Our ancient standards of justice will further degrade with the help of the Senate Democratic Conference. Fox News, "Brit Hume on fallout from Kavanaugh hearing; Alan Dershowitz on Rachel Mitchell's performance," 28 Sep. 2018 Takata air-bag inflators degrade over time as they are exposed to humidity and repeated wide fluctuation in the daily temperature. Washington Post, latimes.com, "10 years after Takata recall began, thousands of 'time bomb' air bags are still on the road," 23 Apr. 2018 The expulsion, London says, degraded Russian intelligence capabilities. Stephen Fidler, WSJ, "U.K. Spy Chief Warns Russia It Will Pay for Hostility," 3 Dec. 2018 Customers tend to replace phones more often than computers, and there are a number of incentivizes — like Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program and the fact that smartphone batteries degrade — that encourage the more frequent buying of new phones. Nick Statt, The Verge, "Apple confirms its T2 security chip blocks some third-party repairs of new Macs," 12 Nov. 2018

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

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Statistics for degrade

Last Updated

23 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for degrade

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

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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

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More from Merriam-Webster on degrade

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with degrade

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for 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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