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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web Yang, who is of Chinese descent, is the first Asian person ever to hold the position and the fourth woman behind Fay Kanin (1979-1983), Cheryl Boone Isaacs (2013-2017) and Bette Davis (Davis resigned after two months in 1941). Clayton Davis, Variety, 2 Aug. 2022 Chun Wai Chan is the New York City Ballet’s first principal dancer of Chinese descent. Los Angeles Times, 30 July 2022 This 1917 article contains an offensive term for a person of Chinese descent. San Diego Union-Tribune, 26 July 2022 The data was derived from the 2018 California Health Interview Survey and includes responses from some 8,200 individuals over 64 years old, of Chinese, Korean, Filipino or Vietnamese descent. Ellen Mcgirt, Fortune, 19 Apr. 2022 The sample consisted of nearly 8,200 individuals 65 years and older, including people of Chinese, Korean, Filipino and Vietnamese descent. NBC News, 28 Mar. 2022 According to a study by the law professor Andrew Chongseh Kim, more than half the defendants in economic-espionage cases since 2009 have been of Chinese descent. The New Yorker, 14 Mar. 2022 The investigations have disproportionately targeted scientists of Chinese descent, and are denounced by academic associations and civil rights groups as racial profiling. Yangyang Cheng, Wired, 24 Feb. 2022 Caught in the Middle: American athletes of Chinese descent in Beijing have become targets of patriotic sentiment, both adoring and hostile, from both China and the U.S. New York Times, 16 Feb. 2022 See More

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.

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

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Last Updated

8 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Descent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for descent


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



Legal Definition of descent

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

More from Merriam-Webster on descent

Nglish: Translation of descent for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of descent for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about descent


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