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

Essential Meaning of deteriorate

1 : to become worse as time passes The weather gradually deteriorated [=worsened] as the day went on. Her health continues to deteriorate. [=decline] See More Examplesefforts to save a deteriorating rain forest The disagreement deteriorated into a fight. [=the disagreement got worse and eventually became a fight]Hide
2 : to make (something) worse Exposure to rain and sun will gradually deteriorate the paint.

Full 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 deteriorate (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 If the economic condition continues to deteriorate, this figure could further spike in the subsequent months. Trefis Team, Forbes, 1 Oct. 2021 The outlook for Colorado River water supplies continues to deteriorate, according to federal water managers’ projections, with a worst-case drought scenario potentially leading to a loss of hydropower production at Glen Canyon Dam by next summer. Brandon Loomis, The Arizona Republic, 23 Sep. 2021 Thursday, conditions were expected to deteriorate in some mountain areas later on and potentially become unhealthy for sensitive groups, authorities said. Alex Wigglesworth, Los Angeles Times, 23 Sep. 2021 The authors posit that this remarkable robustness is likely because the vertical lobe in cuttlefish doesn't deteriorate until the animals' last couple of days of life, after the animals have stopped eating. Jennifer Ouellette, Wired, 22 Aug. 2021 This research is the first time scientists have found evidence of an animal whose ability to remember specific events doesn’t deteriorate with age. Corryn Wetzel, Smithsonian Magazine, 21 Aug. 2021 High humidity in garages causes paper to deteriorate and mildew. oregonlive, 17 June 2021 The clothing—mostly made from organic cotton—is wash-tested to guarantee that items won’t deteriorate, even after many loads of laundry. Liv Birdsall, USA TODAY, 19 Feb. 2021 Europe isn’t wholly closing its borders to tourism, like in 2020, unless the health situation continues to deteriorate. Geoff Whitmore, Forbes, 30 Aug. 2021

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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deteriorated into

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Last Updated

18 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Deteriorate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for deteriorate


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

More from Merriam-Webster on deteriorate

Nglish: Translation of deteriorate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of deteriorate for Arabic Speakers


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