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


dip, dive, down, drop, fall, nosedive, plunge


ascent, climb, rise, rising, soaring, upswing, upturn

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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

Netanyahu, as in the past, has also been criticized for harsh anti-Arab rhetoric leading up to the vote, which might galvanize the Israeli citizens of Palestinian descent who make up about a fifth of the electorate. Noga Tarnopolsky, Los Angeles Times, "Tight race and high stakes for Israel’s Netanyahu in Tuesday’s vote," 17 Sep. 2019 Tlaib, who is of Palestinian descent, was later granted permission by Israel, on humanitarian grounds, to visit her elderly grandmother, who lives in the West Bank. Kim Hjelmgaard, USA TODAY, "It's Israel's election but here's why Donald Trump is the 'King of Israel'," 16 Sep. 2019 Mardik Vartan Martin was born on Sept. 16, 1934, in Abadan, Iran, to Vartan and Heranoosh (Fenerjian) Martin, both of whom were of Armenian descent., "Most read on," 16 Sep. 2019 It was mostly played and watched by whites, in particular Afrikaners (whites of Dutch descent). The Economist, "Chester Williams stood against South African rugby’s racism," 16 Sep. 2019 Many of the company’s clients were living abroad and were of Russian or European descent, prosecutors said. Phil Helsel, NBC News, "Travel agent scammed Delta out of $1.75M in frequent flyer miles, prosecutors say," 14 Sep. 2019 The victim was of Chinese descent and the caller claimed to be from the Chinese government. Bruce Geiselman,, "Euclid woman accused of stealing $9,000 from 81-year-old mother: Westlake Police Blotter," 14 Sep. 2019 Yang, who is Chinese American, is the show’s first cast member of East Asian descent since Fred Armisen, who is a quarter Korean. Rachel Yang,, "New SNL cast member Shane Gillis uses racial slur in resurfaced podcast clip," 13 Sep. 2019 Consider that Lim, who was born in Malaysia and is of Chinese descent, was brought in to rewrite and infuse Chiarelli's—a white man's—original Crazy Rich Asians script with authenticity and perspective. Michelle Ruiz, Vogue, "The Crazy Rich Asians Pay Scandal Is Yet Another Example of Hollywood's Sexism," 10 Sep. 2019

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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Statistics for descent

Last Updated

7 Oct 2019

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Time Traveler for descent

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

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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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Comments on descent

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