de·scent | \di-ˈsent \

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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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

Four-wheel drive and a locking rear differential were standard, as was hill descent control. Wes Siler, Outside Online, "The Best Trucks for Any Budget," 19 June 2018 Here’s HBO’s official description for the prequel: Taking place thousands of years before the events of Game of Thrones, the series chronicles the world’s descent from the golden Age of Heroes into its darkest hour. Megan Mccluskey, Time, "George R. R. Martin Has a Foreboding Title Suggestion for the New Game of Thrones Prequel," 11 June 2018 With locking center differential, hill-descent control, and brake-lock differential front and rear on all-wheel drive models, Rogue offers more hardware for light off-road driving than most of its competition. Emma Jayne Williams, star-telegram, "Nissan Rogue proves to be a popular compact crossover for US consumers | Fort Worth Star-Telegram," 5 May 2018 Back in Waipio Valley, the ride was slightly less jarring during Douglas Nakata’s descent. Jay Jones,, "Road trip along Hawaii's Hamakua Coast leads to seldom-seen natural beauty," 30 Jan. 2018 Afrin and ear plugs are also a must on every plane’s descent. Peggy Siegal, Town & Country, "This Underground Plastic Surgery Guide Is the Talk of the Upper East Side," 20 Nov. 2017 Another neighbor said the roaring motors have woken him up from naps and are much louder than airplanes that fly over the neighborhood on their descent to Orlando International Airport. Ryan Gillespie,, "Despite new law, homeowners on Lake Toho still complain about airboat noise," 13 July 2018 Tales of Rozier’s undergraduate nightlife might seem more amusing now if not for his fortune-blowing descent into drug abuse and homelessness. Tim Sullivan, The Courier-Journal, "Clifford Rozier's death is a sad reminder of what might have been," 7 July 2018 The gloves, for one, surfaced on her descent from Air Force One in Houston, paired with the daytime Chanel suit. Bonnie Wertheim, New York Times, "Jackie Kennedy’s Packing List for Texas, Chic and Poignant," 3 July 2018

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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Learn More about descent

Phrases Related to descent

of royal descent

Statistics for descent

Last Updated

7 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for descent

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

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More Definitions for descent


de·scent | \di-ˈsent \

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 \

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



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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Comments on descent

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one that holds something together

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