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 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 Harvard’s Peabody Museum holds the images and has gone to great lengths to develop practices that engage descendant communities and others who may have an interest in its some of its sensitive collections. Deirdre Fernandes,, "Agassiz descendants put pressure on Harvard to give up slave photos," 19 June 2019 American Jewry is also dominated by a European-descendant establishment, despite a significant and growing population of Jews of color who can have real problems feeling accepted in the community. Zack Beauchamp, Vox, "Julia Salazar, the socialist politician accused of lying about her past, explained," 7 Sep. 2018 Today, local representatives from descendant communities visit the site twice a year and help guide the research. Jon Hurdle, New York Times, "Ruined ‘Apartments’ May Hold Clues to Native American History," 4 Sep. 2017 The group was made up of friends of Ariana Rockefeller, the descendant grand-niece of the property's founder. Avril Graham, Harper's BAZAAR, "Just Back From...A Long Weekend in Puerto Rico," 8 May 2017 A descendant sapling from a tree planted by children who were killed during the Holocaust was planted at Niles West High School Thursday, April 27, in honor of Arbor Day. Mike Isaacs,, "Arbor Day: Sapling from tree grown during Holocaust planted at Niles West," 28 Apr. 2017 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Direct-line descendants of Forrest as well as the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a non-profit, dropped their lawsuit against the city of Memphis and Memphis Greenspace this week, the Columbia Daily Herald reported. Fox News, "Remains of Confederate general, wife to be removed from Memphis park: reports," 14 May 2020 But Loraine, his lover, was a middle-aged bekée — a wealthy white Creole descendant of colonial plantation owners. Justin Torres, New York Times, "2 Novels by ‘Alternative Nobel’ Winner Take On Power and Its Abuses," 5 May 2020 On background Some descendants of victims of the 1923 Rosewood massacre received reparations. Ellen Mcgirt, Fortune, "Ramadan begins in a vastly changed world," 24 Apr. 2020 Blankenship and Mann were the first-team All-SEC kicker and punter, while UCLA’s JJ Molson is an eighth-generation descendant of Molson brewing founder John Molson. Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Lions' NFL draft options: What they see among specialists," 14 Apr. 2020 Humans have been raising domestic pigs, descendants of European wild boars, for around 10,000 years. National Geographic, "THE BEST OF NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX," 3 Apr. 2020 The family business, Tony Chachere's Creole Foods, is now owned by Chachere's remaining descendants and is run by his grandson. Kaitlyn Yarborough, Southern Living, "The Store-Bought Creole Seasoning That Every Southern Cook Needs In the Spice Cabinet," 22 May 2020 Disney family descendants are causing the company some PR headaches lately. Allison Morrow, CNN, "The latest in the Carlos Ghosn saga and four other business stories you need to read today," 20 May 2020 It had been sold to a private collector in 2007 by one of Van Belle's descendants. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "We now have more evidence that Galileo likely never said “And yet it moves”," 17 May 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

Time Traveler

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

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Cite this Entry

“Descendant.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Jun. 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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