verb de·scend \ di-ˈsend , dē- \
|Updated on: 8 Aug 2018

Definition of descend

1 : to pass from a higher place or level to a lower one
  • descended from the platform
2 : to pass in discussion from what is logically prior or more comprehensive
  • descends from the general to the specific
3 a : to originate or come from an ancestral stock or source : derive
  • descends from an old merchant family
b : to pass by inheritance
  • a desk that has descended in the family
c : to pass by transmission
  • songs descended from old ballads
4 a : to incline, lead, or extend downward
  • the road descends to the river
b physiology : to conduct nerve impulses away from the brain
  • … lesions that interrupt the descending pathways from the cortex or brain stem produce weakness in voluntary movements …
  • —Claude Ghez and John Krakauer
5 a : to swoop or pounce down (as in a sudden attack)
  • a hawk descending upon its prey
b : to appear suddenly and often disconcertingly as if from above
  • reporters descended on the candidate
6 : to proceed in a sequence or gradation from higher to lower or from more remote to nearer or more recent
  • Their scores were listed in descending order.
7 a : to lower oneself in status or dignity : stoop
b : to worsen and sink in condition or estimation
  • He descended into a deep depression.
  • descended to poverty
  • descend into chaos
c : to pass from higher to lower musical notes
  • The harmony descends chromatically.
1 : to pass, move, or climb down or down along
  • descending the staircase
2 : to extend down along
  • a narrow scar descended her arm


play \-ˈsen-də-bəl\ adjective

Examples of descend in a Sentence

  1. Wait for the elevator to descend.

  2. The workers descended into the hole.

  3. A herd of goats descended into the valley.

  4. The airplane will descend to a lower altitude soon.

  5. Descending the mountain was even more dangerous than climbing it.

  6. The children descended the staircase silently.

  7. The path descends to the river.

  8. The stairs descended into the tunnel.

Recent Examples of descend from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'descend.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Origin and Etymology of descend

Middle English, from Anglo-French descendre, from Latin descendere, from de- + scandere to climb — more at scan

DESCEND Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of descend for English Language Learners

  • : to go down : to go or move from a higher to a lower place or level

  • : to slope or lead downward

  • : to go or change to a worse state or condition

DESCEND Defined for Kids


verb de·scend \ di-ˈsend \

Definition of descend for Students

descended; descending
1 : to come or go down from a higher place or level to a lower one
  • The elevator descended.
2 : to move down or down along
  • Descending the cliff was dangerous.
3 : to slope or lead downward
  • The road descends to the valley.
4 : to come down from an earlier time
  • The custom descends from ancient times.
5 : to come down from a source or ancestor : derive
  • Many words descend from Latin.
6 : to be handed down to an heir
7 : to arrive from or as if from the sky
  • Locusts descended on the crops.
  • Holiday shoppers descended on the mall.
8 : to sink in dignity or respectability : stoop
  • I never thought they would descend to cheating.
9 : to sink to a worse condition
  • The classroom descended into chaos.

Word Root of descend

The Latin word scandere, meaning “to climb,” gives us the root scend. Words from the Latin scandere have something to do with climbing. To ascend is to climb upward. To descend is to climb downward. To transcend is to rise above or climb over something's limits.

Medical Dictionary


intransitive verb de·scend \ di-ˈsend \

medical Definition of descend

: to pass from a higher place or level to a lower one
  • normally the testicle descends into the scrotum between the seventh and ninth month in utero
  • Therapeutic Notes

Law Dictionary


intransitive verb de·scend \ di-ˈsend \

legal Definition of descend

: to pass by inheritance


\-ˌsen-də-ˈbi-lə-tē\ noun


play \-ˈsen-də-bəl\ adjective

Seen and Heard

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fullness to the point of excess

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