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

intransitive verb

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

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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.

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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web The audience of 1,600-plus, all primed to cheer the speakers’ adversarial views, found less and less to react to as the panel digressed. Lorraine Ali, Los Angeles Times, 14 Sep. 2023 Ellis kept digressing into jokes and rambling stories during his set, even doing a bit of brief crowd work with the audience. Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rolling Stone, 19 Mar. 2023 The fascinating conversation between Dr. Patalon, the philosophy enthusiast physician and the rather nontraditional economist digressed in unexpected directions but concluded with an interesting note. Carrie Rubinstein, Forbes, 8 Mar. 2023 It’s now useful to digress briefly into what money is. John Tamny, Forbes, 17 Apr. 2022 The pair often digress into Chicago-high-school-basketball minutiae, memories of seeing palm trees for the first time. Hua Hsu, The New Yorker, 29 Mar. 2021 The book doesn't follow a conventional narrative structure and digresses a lot -- a polite way of saying there's not much of a plot. Brandon Griggs, CNN, 10 May 2020 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, 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, 31 Oct. 2019 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'digress.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

1529, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of digress was in 1529

Dictionary Entries Near digress

Cite this Entry

“Digress.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/digress. Accessed 28 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


di·​gress dī-ˈgres How to pronounce digress (audio)
: to turn aside especially from the main subject in writing or speaking

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