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 Baird is particularly anxious that the performance of tests will deteriorate in the field and when applied to asymptomatic people. Alexis C. Madrigal, The Atlantic, "Trump Is Squandering the Best Hope for Coronavirus Testing," 9 Oct. 2020 Why do some patients deteriorate so quickly, while others with seemingly identical health profiles fare well? Washington Post, "Inside a Florida hospital, coronavirus cases wane as strained staff brace for a fall surge," 7 Oct. 2020 Some worry that the neighborhood could deteriorate further and drag the city down with it. Konrad Putzier, WSJ, "How Covid Broke Times Square, the Heart of New York’s Economy," 2 Oct. 2020 Air quality in the Bay Area began to deteriorate early Monday morning, as smoke from several Northern California wildfires — including the new, out-of-control Glass Fire in St. Helena — pushed into the region. Trisha Thadani,, "Bay Area choked by wildfire smoke and unhealthy air — again," 28 Sep. 2020 During her sophomore year, Young said her mental health began to deteriorate because of stress and other issues. Caitlin Schmidt, The Arizona Republic, "Twelve former UA athletes support claims of abusive, neglectful practices in track program," 18 Sep. 2020 As the coronavirus spread, conditions in prisons, already dismal, began to deteriorate further. Justine Van Der Leun, The New York Review of Books, "Confinement and Contagion," 10 Sep. 2020 Morales' relationship with the commission began to deteriorate almost as soon as the panel appointed him chief in 2018. Todd Richmond, Star Tribune, "ACLU: New Milwaukee police chief shouldn't use harsh tactics," 7 Aug. 2020 Shortly after their wedding in 2008, Juan’s health began to deteriorate and he was diagnosed with a fatty liver. Dallas News, "Death of Parkland nurse’s husband underscores private battles health care workers face amid coronavirus pandemic," 3 Aug. 2020

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

17 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Deteriorate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Oct. 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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