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 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 Relations between Australia and China began to deteriorate last April after Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for an international investigation into the origins of the coronavirus. Julia Horowitz, CNN, "China slaps duties of up to 218% on Australian wine for 5 years," 26 Mar. 2021 That’s where things began to deteriorate for Portland. oregonlive, "Portland Trail Blazers no match for Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks, fall 132-92: Game rewind," 22 Mar. 2021 As Alabama basketball roared to 10 consecutive wins by late January, the health of the team began to deteriorate. Mike Rodak |, al, "Alabama healthy, refreshed as it awaits SEC tournament opponent," 11 Mar. 2021 Even as his health began to deteriorate, James’ fiery strength never wavered. Irene Chang, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Beloved bar owner and mentor to young men, James Banks died of COVID in 2020," 11 Mar. 2021 Shortly after the onset of the pandemic, Newsom enjoyed soaring job approval ratings and praise for a decisive response, but those high marks began to deteriorate as time went on. Phil Willon, Los Angeles Times, "Facing recall, Newsom discusses ‘unthinkable’ pandemic challenges and offers hope for future," 9 Mar. 2021 As a result, many homes were left vacant, and the area quickly began to deteriorate. Maggie Kelleher, Dallas News, "State Thomas, now part of pricey Uptown, was once ‘the heart and soul of Black Dallas’," 22 Feb. 2021 Then, in January, the party’s position began to deteriorate. W. James Antle Iii, Washington Examiner, "The GOP's civil war over Trump," 11 Feb. 2021 But if the president’s condition were to deteriorate, invoking the 25th Amendment and turning over power temporarily to Vice President Mike Pence would be an option. Joe Garofoli,, "What happens if President Trump drops out or cannot continue the campaign?," 2 Oct. 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

3 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Deteriorate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for deteriorate



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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Comments on deteriorate

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