de·​scen·​dant | \ di-ˈsen-dənt How to pronounce descendant (audio) \
variants: or less commonly descendent

Definition of descendant

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : moving or directed downward listed in descendant order
2 : proceeding from an ancestor or source


variants: or less commonly descendent

Definition of descendant (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : one originating or coming from an ancestral stock or source : one descended from another descendants of King David a descendant of an ancient grass
2 : one deriving directly from a precursor or prototype Italian and other descendants of Latin

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Synonyms & Antonyms for descendant

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adjective

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Did You Know?

Descendant is the opposite of ancestor. Your grandparents' descendants are those who are descended from them—your parents, your brothers and sisters, and any children that any of you may have. It's been claimed that every person on earth is a descendant of Muhammad, and of every historical person before him—Julius Caesar, the Buddha, etc.—who started a line of descent. (Some of us still find this hard to believe.) And not all descendants are human; every modern thesaurus, for example, could be called the descendant of the one devised by Peter Mark Roget in 1852.

Examples of descendant in a Sentence

Adjective the descendant branches of a weeping willow Noun One of the famous inventor's descendants is also an inventor. Many people in this area are descendants of German immigrants. Recent evidence supports the theory that birds are the modern descendants of dinosaurs. The Italian language is one of Latin's descendants.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective An in-law or stepchild is considered neither kindred nor descendant and will not inherit. Dallas News, "Splitting heirs: Here’s an heir, there’s an heir, everywhere’s an heir," 16 Aug. 2020 For them, the new study underscores the need for collaboration between scientists and descendant communities in future conservation efforts. Scott Hershberger, Scientific American, "For Sustainable Oyster Harvesting, Look to Native Americans’ Historical Practices," 13 July 2020 The government of Ghana has since made efforts to attract its Ghanaian origin and other African descendant diaspora to return home, with the Year of Return, Ghana 2019 recording remarkable success. Amindeh Blaise Atabong, Quartz Africa, "African countries are having to come to terms with a growing diaspora’s dual citizenship," 2 July 2020 Though this year's homecoming won't be the same as a physical gathering, descendant Bryan Glover believes the pandemic has opened up their history to those outside the family. Tiana Woodard, The Indianapolis Star, "This historic Indiana family’s 97th-annual reunion will look a bit different than the rest," 2 July 2020 The two descendant groups have filed lawsuits over the Alamo project, seeking to be included in decisions on the treatment and disposition of uncovered remains. Scott Huddleston,, "State commission recognizes Alamo church in downtown San Antonio as a cemetery," 17 June 2020 What starts off as trash can become priceless artifacts, and the more that’s left to be buried and preserved for decades or centuries or millennia, the more descendant generations can learn about the ones that came before. Jeffrey Kluger, Time, "'They Cleaned Up Pretty Well.' What Archeologists Found at the Farm Where Woodstock Was Held," 1 Aug. 2019 Race was invented by European colonists to provide an excuse for the systematic oppression of African-descendant people. Kelley Fanto Deetz, The Conversation, "Setting the historical record straight for the critics of The New York Times project on slavery in America," 23 Aug. 2019 The school hopes to draw in the descendant community in several ways. Susan Svrluga, Washington Post, "College of William & Mary to explore the legacies of slavery and racism," 31 July 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun More:I'm a direct descendant of Gen. Alexander Macomb. Darcie Moran, Detroit Free Press, "Bag placed on head of Macomb Monument, 'slave owner' spray painted on it during protests," 6 Sep. 2020 The generations who followed would become the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians, and Taylor was a direct descendant. Abraham Mahshie, Washington Examiner, "Cherokee World War II veteran recounts Battle of the Bulge 76 years later," 6 Sep. 2020 This shows that the G26233T variant is a descendant of the germ that originally arrived at the meeting, Lemieux said, an imperfect clone that wound up giving rise to its own distinct lineage. Author: Sarah Kaplan, Chris Mooney, Anchorage Daily News, "Genetic analysis shows how a single ‘superspreading’ event sent coronavirus across the nation," 25 Aug. 2020 Auction house Henry Aldridge & Son explains that the telegrams are sold via a descendant of Harold Benson Key, the yeoman of signals onboard Royal Navy destroyer HMS Cossack, which participated in the pursuit and destruction of Bismarck. Fox News, "WWII naval telegrams detailing the sinking of Hitler’s most powerful battleship emerge," 14 Aug. 2020 The Western Reserve Historical Society opened Hale Farm in 1958 after receiving the property from Clara Belle Ritchie, a descendant of Jonathan Hale. Shirley Macfarland, cleveland, "Hale Farm offers safe, entertaining glimpse into the past: Talk of the Towns," 6 Aug. 2020 Decades later in Witebsky’s laboratory in Buffalo, Dr. Rose became a third-generation scientific descendant of Ehrlich, and the first to challenge his prevailing idea, which had hardened into doctrine. Matt Schudel,, "Noel R. Rose, scientist who advanced study of autoimmune diseases, dies at 92," 10 Aug. 2020 Decades later in Witebksy’s laboratory in Buffalo, Dr. Rose became a third-generation scientific descendant of Ehrich, and the first to challenge his prevailing idea, which had hardened into doctrine. Matt Schudel, Washington Post, "Noel R. Rose, scientist who advanced study of autoimmune diseases, dies at 92," 9 Aug. 2020 Hutt sees the meme as a descendant of a shorthand used by Black Americans to describe privileged, troublesome, demanding white women. Richard Chin, Star Tribune, "Minnesotans named Karen say they're OK with the name, despite the unflattering meme," 4 Aug. 2020

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


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1569, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for descendant


Middle English dessendaunte, from Anglo-French descendant, from Latin descendent-, descendens, present participle of descendere — see descend


French & Latin; French descendant, from Late Latin descendent-, descendens, from Latin

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Time Traveler for descendant

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The first known use of descendant was in the 15th century

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Statistics for descendant

Last Updated

28 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Descendant.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Sep. 2020.

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More Definitions for descendant



English Language Learners Definition of descendant

: someone who is related to a person or group of people who lived in the past
: a plant or animal that is related to a particular plant or animal that lived long ago
: something that developed from another thing that was made or existed earlier


de·​scen·​dant | \ di-ˈsen-dənt How to pronounce descendant (audio) \

Kids Definition of descendant

1 : someone related to a person or group of people who lived at an earlier time
2 : a thing that comes from something that existed at an earlier time


variants: also descendent \ di-​ˈsen-​dənt \

Legal Definition of descendant

: a blood relative of a later generation

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