di·​gress | \ dī-ˈgres How to pronounce digress (audio) , də- \
digressed; digressing; digresses

Definition of digress

intransitive verb

: to turn aside especially from the main subject of attention or course of argument

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Choose the Right Synonym for digress

swerve, veer, deviate, depart, digress, diverge mean to turn aside from a straight course. swerve may suggest a physical, mental, or moral turning away from a given course, often with abruptness. swerved to avoid hitting the dog veer implies a major change in direction. at that point the path veers to the right deviate implies a turning from a customary or prescribed course. never deviated from her daily routine depart suggests a deviation from a traditional or conventional course or type. occasionally departs from his own guidelines digress applies to a departing from the subject of one's discourse. a professor prone to digress diverge may equal depart but usually suggests a branching of a main path into two or more leading in different directions. after school their paths diverged

But I Digress

The verb digress is often encountered in the phrase “but I digress.” This is an idiomatic expression that has been in use in English for many hundreds of years. Examples may be found as far back as 1653, when Edmund Hall used “but I digress” in his A Scriptural Discourse of the Apostasie and the Antichrist. The phrase is used, often jocularly, by speakers and writers to indicate that they have veered away from the subject that they had been speaking or writing of, and intend to return to it.

Examples of digress in a Sentence

The third visit, the first one after I started the drugs, is shorter, more perfunctory than the first two. Papakostas moves briskly from one question to the next and looks at his watch if we digress. — Gary Greenberg, Harper's, May 2007 Coleridge, of course, who happily called himself a … lover of parentheses, does not bridle himself, but merely produces digressions about how he should not digress. — James Wood, New Republic, 6 Sept. 1999 He had not written too much per se; he had digressed intolerably given the significance of the events under consideration. — Alain de Botton, How Proust Can Change Your Life, 1997 He digressed so often that it was hard to follow what he was saying. If I can digress for a moment, I'd like to briefly mention her earlier films.
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Recent Examples on the Web In the meantime, here are four steps to work through emotions when navigating challenges without digressing to gossip or suppressing our true feelings. 1. NBC News, "4 realistic ways to avoid the gossip trap at work," 24 Oct. 2019 More Stories Some of these plot elements come straight from Lethem’s novel, but many don’t—and the ways in which Norton digresses from the original are both radical and baffling. David Sims, The Atlantic, "Motherless Brooklyn Is a Passion Project Without Heart," 31 Oct. 2019 The movie repeatedly digresses, however, to explore several other interludes that basically parachute in, exposing tentacles of the operation in a way that's moderately interesting but dramatically numbing. Brian Lowry, CNN, "'The Laundromat' puts poor spin on Panama Papers case," 27 Sep. 2019 Faculty regularly make off-topic jabs at Trump or the Republicans, or even end up digressing into full-on rants. Musa Al-gharbi, National Review, "Ideological Discrimination in Academia Is More Complicated than You Think," 9 Sep. 2019 Fans need reason to move on from a historically bad 2018 and reason to digress from pondering a potentially murky future. Mike Anthony, courant.com, "Mike Anthony: UConn football must open the 2019 season with more than a victory against Wagner," 29 Aug. 2019 The right to investigate, to digress, to stretch out beyond the basic requirements of the story is given only to the extremely talented. Sam Sacks, WSJ, "Fiction: The Great Migration North," 28 June 2019 Cramming this much historical minutiae into 20 chapters can make the book feel disjointed at times, but Kurlansky fans expect and enjoy his generous narratives, chock-full of curious if occasionally digressing facts. Elaine Khosrova, WSJ, "‘Milk!’ Review: Food History Worth Nursing," 7 May 2018 Commissioner Richard Ross opened his remarks by thanking the class’s family and friends for their support, and then digressed. Tommy Rowan, Philly.com, "Son of SEPTA police chief joins the family business," 15 Dec. 2017

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

1529, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for digress

Latin digressus, past participle of digredi, from dis- + gradi to step — more at grade entry 1

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Time Traveler for digress

Time Traveler

The first known use of digress was in 1529

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Statistics for digress

Last Updated

27 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Digress.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/digress. Accessed 25 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for digress


How to pronounce digress (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of digress

: to speak or write about something that is different from the main subject being discussed

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More from Merriam-Webster on digress

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for digress

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with digress

Spanish Central: Translation of digress

Nglish: Translation of digress for Spanish Speakers

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