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

Keep scrolling for more

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

Decosta’s eye sight again deteriorated in October 2018, the lawsuit says. Adam Ferrise,, "Woman left blind after fall at Cuyahoga County Jail, poor medical treatment, lawsuit says," 13 June 2019 This year’s Social Security and Medicare report found both programs in deteriorating health. Ricardo Alonso-zaldivar, The Seattle Times, "Help Wanted: Overseers for Social Security and Medicare," 1 Oct. 2018 There's also the issues of financially deteriorating Venezuela, which is continuing to see its oil production fall, and of U.S. sanctions on Iran potentially further lowering its oil export capabilities. Jordan Blum, Houston Chronicle, "OPEC compromise triggers oil price spike," 22 June 2018 Donna Tucker’s sister, Denise, who had filed a missing persons report, told investigators she was concerned about Kyle Tucker’s deteriorating mental health. Josh Kovner,, "Hamden Man Said He Beat Mother, Burned Her Body For 8 Hours," 11 June 2018 In February, the county board more than doubled its permit costs for overweight trucks – the first fee hike in 16 years – to help pay for deteriorating roads and bridges. Susan Demar Lafferty, Daily Southtown, "Will County eyes five years of road work," 11 June 2018 Banks blame the law introduced in September 2016 for deteriorating private-sector credit growth, which slowed to 2.4 percent in December, the lowest annual growth since at least 2005, according to the central bank. Adelaide Changole,, "Elections, Drought Dragged Down Kenyan Growth Rate Last Year," 25 Apr. 2018 Silicone lubes can cause silicone toys to deteriorate. Sophie Saint Thomas, Allure, "A Guide to Pegging Your Partner With a Strap On," 8 May 2019 At the time of Ronnie’s death, the New York Times reported his band Heaven and Hell had canceled its summer tour because of his deteriorating health. Stephanie Nolasco, Fox News, "Ronnie James Dio's widow says it was 'very difficult' sending his possessions to auction: 'Some of the shirts still smell of him'," 19 Sep. 2018

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about deteriorate

Statistics for deteriorate

Last Updated

20 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for deteriorate

The first known use of deteriorate was in 1572

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on deteriorate

What made you want to look up deteriorate? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to take the place or position of

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words for Summer: A Quiz

  • a closeup of a sunflower
  • Which of the following words means “of or relating to summer”?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!