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 Some 250,000 Israelis are of Iranian descent and have stayed close to the music, culture and food of their roots. Washington Post, "New Israeli espionage TV series tackles shadow war with Iran," 27 June 2020 East Oakland native toils in Mexico for four years, makes the Warriors’ G League affiliate in an open tryout and finally signs a contract with his hometown NBA team to become the league’s first player of Mexican descent in nearly half a decade. Connor Letourneau,, "Juan Toscano-Anderson: Can forward stick with Warriors?," 26 June 2020 The erroneous assumption that individuals of African descent were more resilient to yellow fever was used to justify slavery. Dominique Soguel, The Christian Science Monitor, "'Immunity passports' could help against pandemic – or harm society," 24 June 2020 Diana Markosian is a Russian-American photographer of Armenian descent. Nina Strochlic, National Geographic, "Follow high school grads as they say goodbye to a senior year stolen by coronavirus," 24 June 2020 Its original logo was a man in Blackface wearing a top hat and tuxedo while showing off his shiny white teeth with a big smile, an imagery reportedly based on white performers who blacked up to mock people of African descent in minstrel shows. Jane Li, Quartz, "“This is nuts”: the backlash to the rebranding of “Black person toothpaste” in China," 23 June 2020 Ghana’s government, meanwhile, is hoping to tap into the current mood of reflection and resistance to strengthen its pitch targeting people of African descent in the diaspora. Kwasi Gyamfi Asiedu, Quartz Africa, "After George Floyd, Ghana’s simple message to African Americans: “Come home”," 20 June 2020 That will be followed by a slow descent to splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean where a recovery ship will be standing by to secure the cabin and crew. William Harwood, CBS News, "Company plans space tourism flights in high-altitude balloon," 18 June 2020 Experiment with deliveries, ranging from a slow, steady crawl, to a short lift-and-drop, a crisp upward sweep, or a slow descent presentation. Gerald Almy, Field & Stream, "The 7 Best Lures for Smallmouth Bass in Rivers," 18 June 2020

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

2 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Descent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for descent


How to pronounce descent (audio)

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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Comments on descent

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