noun de·scent \di-ˈsent\

Definition of descent

  1. 1a :  derivation from an ancestor :  birth, lineage <of French descent> <patrilineal descent>b :  transmission or devolution of an estate (see 1estate 4b) by inheritance usually in the descending linec :  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. 2 :  the act or process of descending from a higher to a lower level, rank, or state <begin our descent down the mountain>

  3. 3 :  a step downward in a scale of gradation; specifically :  one generation in an ancestral line or genealogical scale <His pedigree shows eleven descents.>

  4. 4a :  an inclination downward :  slope <a nearly perpendicular descent>b :  a way (as a downgrade or stairway) that descends or leads downwardc obsolete :  the lowest part <from the extremest upward of thy head to the descent and dust below thy foot — Shakespeare>

  5. 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. 6 :  a downward step (as in station or value) :  decline <the descent of the family into poverty>

Examples of descent in a sentence

  1. The book describes his descent into a deep depression after the death of his wife.

  2. her slow descent to a life of addiction

  3. The only path that goes down to the river is a rather steep descent, so be careful.

Origin and Etymology of descent

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

First Known Use: 14th century

DESCENT Defined for Kids


noun de·scent \di-ˈsent\

Definition of descent for Students

  1. 1 :  an act of coming or going down in location or condition <The plane began its descent.>

  2. 2 :  a downward slope <a steep descent>

  3. 3 :  a person's ancestors <She is of Korean descent.>

Medical Dictionary


noun de·scent \di-ˈsent\

Medical Definition of descent

  1. 1:  the act or process of descending from a higher to a lower location <descent of the testes into the scrotum>

  2. 2a:  derivation from an ancestorb:  the fact or process of originating by generation from an ancestral stock (as a species or genus)

  3. 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

Law Dictionary


noun de·scent

Legal Definition of descent

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

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