de·​scent | \ di-ˈsent How to pronounce descent (audio) \

Definition of descent

1a : derivation from an ancestor : birth, lineage of French descent patrilineal descent
b : transmission or devolution of an estate (see estate entry 1 sense 4b) by inheritance usually in the descending line
c : the fact or process of originating from an ancestral stock the descent of modern humans and chimpanzees from a common ancestor
d : the shaping or development in nature and character by transmission from a source : derivation … could trace a faint but sure descent from Roman law.— R. W. Southern
2 : the act or process of descending from a higher to a lower level, rank, or state begin our descent down the mountain
3 : a step downward in a scale of gradation specifically : one generation in an ancestral line or genealogical scale His pedigree shows eleven descents.
4a : an inclination downward : slope a nearly perpendicular descent
b : a way (such as a downgrade or stairway) that descends or leads downward
c obsolete : the lowest part from the extremest upward of thy head to the descent and dust below thy foot— Shakespeare
5a : attack, invasion descent of the locusts
b : a sudden disconcerting appearance (as for a visit) unprepared for the descent of her in-laws
6 : a downward step (as in station or value) : decline the descent of the family into poverty

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Synonyms & Antonyms for descent



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Examples of descent in a Sentence

The book describes his descent into a deep depression after the death of his wife. her slow descent to a life of addiction The only path that goes down to the river is a rather steep descent, so be careful.
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Recent Examples on the Web When Ingenuity reaches the final phase of a flight and is starting into its descent, the navcam is no longer actively used for navigational purposes. Lance Eliot, Forbes, 5 June 2021 Norimen Abdeselam Mohamed, a 15-year-old Spanish student at the rally, said she was angered that anyone would question her loyalty because of her Moroccan descent. New York Times, 2 June 2021 After a week of some summerlike weather with several days topping 90 degrees, Memorial Day weekend slammed the brakes on our premature descent into mid-July. Washington Post, 1 June 2021 Kevin injures his knee on set, begins his descent toward rock bottom. Maggie Fremont, Vulture, 26 May 2021 Customers began to cut their cords and cable subscriptions began their descent. New York Times, 18 May 2021 As the deadly rockets fell and Israeli cities began their descent into chaos, a network of former Israeli army intelligence officers went to work. Asaf Shalev,, 18 May 2021 After jettisoning its protective shell lower in the atmosphere, the spacecraft unfurled parachutes to slow its descent before riding thrusters down to a gentle landing on the surface. Jonathan O'callaghan, Scientific American, 14 May 2021 Although the object's trajectory and path are constantly changing like a game of roulette, with weather and atmosphere density critical to monitoring its descent, scientists and government agencies are working to track its fall. Julia Musto, Fox News, 9 May 2021

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for descent

Middle English, from Anglo-French descente, from Anglo-French descendre — see descend

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Time Traveler for descent

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for descent

Last Updated

9 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Descent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Jun. 2021.

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More Definitions for descent



English Language Learners Definition of descent

: the act or process of going from a higher to a lower place or level
: the act or process or changing to a worse state or condition
: a way of going down something : a downward slope, path, etc.


de·​scent | \ di-ˈsent How to pronounce descent (audio) \

Kids Definition of descent

1 : an act of coming or going down in location or condition The plane began its descent.
2 : a downward slope a steep descent
3 : a person's ancestors She is of Korean descent.


de·​scent | \ di-ˈsent How to pronounce descent (audio) \

Medical Definition of descent

1 : the act or process of descending from a higher to a lower location descent of the testes into the scrotum
2a : derivation from an ancestor
b : the fact or process of originating by generation from an ancestral stock (as a species or genus)
3 : a former method of distillation in which the material was heated in a vessel having its outlet underneath so that the vapors produced were forced to descend

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Legal Definition of descent

: transmission or devolution of the estate of a person who has died without a valid will — compare distribution


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