de·​te·​ri·​o·​rate | \ di-ˈtir-ē-ə-ˌrāt How to pronounce deteriorate (audio) , dē- \
deteriorated; deteriorating

Definition of deteriorate

transitive verb

1 : to make inferior in quality or value : impair Exposure to sunlight may deteriorate the paint.

intransitive verb

: to become impaired in quality, functioning, or condition : degenerate allowed a tradition of academic excellence to deteriorate his health deteriorated

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Other Words from deteriorate

deteriorative \ di-​ˈtir-​ē-​ə-​ˌrā-​tiv How to pronounce deteriorative (audio) , dē-​ \ adjective

Examples of deteriorate in a Sentence

efforts to save a deteriorating rain forest Exposure to rain and sun will gradually deteriorate the paint.
Recent Examples on the Web In April 2019, the deteriorating security situation in Libya led AFRICOM to pull its remaining ground forces out of the country. Abraham Mahshie, Washington Examiner, "Russian presence in Libya more dangerous than ISIS says US Africa Command," 29 Apr. 2020 Over the next few days, as Nick’s breathing deteriorated and his oxygen levels plummeted, he would be treated at four hospitals in San Antonio as doctors sought to save his life. Lauren Caruba, San Antonio Express-News, "A last resort against COVID-19," 26 Apr. 2020 And the virus itself can attack many organs, including the heart and kidneys, damage that can bump arrhythmia risk higher as a patient deteriorates. Kelly Servick, Science | AAAS, "Antimalarials widely used against COVID-19 heighten risk of cardiac arrest. How can doctors minimize the danger?," 21 Apr. 2020 Local leaders and Indigenous advocates direct their blame for this deteriorating situation toward one person: President Jair Bolsonaro. New York Times, "As Bolsonaro Keeps Amazon Vows, Brazil’s Indigenous Fear ‘Ethnocide’," 19 Apr. 2020 The government has urged Israelis to celebrate only with those living in their house, but the deteriorating situation in Bnei Brak has shown that the authorities' control over ultra-Orthodox communities can be limited. NBC News, "Israel locks down ultra-Orthodox city hit hard by coronavirus," 30 Mar. 2020 The deteriorating fiscal situation of the state is trickling down to the municipality. Anchorage Daily News, "14 questions: Anchorage Assembly candidate Felix Rivera," 28 Mar. 2020 The country managed to turn the rapidly deteriorating situation around quickly, however, by devising a system to reserve hospital beds for those most in need and creating extra space with help from its biggest companies. Dasl Yoon, WSJ, "How South Korea Solved Its Acute Hospital-Bed Shortage," 22 Mar. 2020 The attack, the deadliest in years, highlights the rapidly deteriorating security situation across the Sahel. The Economist, "Politics this week," 12 Dec. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'deteriorate.' 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 deteriorate

1572, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for deteriorate

Late Latin deterioratus, past participle of deteriorare, from Latin deterior worse, from de- + -ter (suffix as in Latin uter which of two) + -ior (comparative suffix) — more at whether entry 2, -er

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Time Traveler for deteriorate

Time Traveler

The first known use of deteriorate was in 1572

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Statistics for deteriorate

Last Updated

22 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Deteriorate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for deteriorate


How to pronounce deteriorate (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of deteriorate

: to become worse as time passes
: to make (something) worse


de·​te·​ri·​o·​rate | \ di-ˈtir-ē-ə-ˌrāt How to pronounce deteriorate (audio) \
deteriorated; deteriorating

Kids Definition of deteriorate

: to make or become worse or of less value Their relationship deteriorated.


intransitive verb
de·​te·​ri·​o·​rate | \ di-ˈtir-ē-ə-ˌrāt How to pronounce deteriorate (audio) \
deteriorated; deteriorating

Medical Definition of deteriorate

: to become impaired in quality, functioning, or condition : degenerate her health deteriorated deteriorating vision

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