re·​gress | \ˈrē-ˌgres \

Definition of regress 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a : an act or the privilege of going or coming back

b : reentry sense 1

2 : movement backward to a previous and especially worse or more primitive state or condition

3 : the act of reasoning backward


re·​gress | \ri-ˈgres \
regressed; regressing; regresses

Definition of regress (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

1a : to make or undergo regress : retrograde

b : to be subject to or exhibit regression

2 : to tend to approach or revert to a mean

transitive verb

: to induce a state of psychological regression in

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Other Words from regress


regressor \ri-​ˈgre-​sər \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for regress

Synonyms: Verb

retrogress, return, revert

Antonyms: Verb

advance, develop, evolve, progress

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Did You Know?

As you might guess, regress is the opposite of progress. So if a disease regresses, that's generally a good thing, but in most other ways we prefer not to regress. If someone's mental state has been improving, we hope that person won't start to regress; and when a nation's promising educational system begins to regress, that's a bad sign for the country's future. Economists often distinguish between a progressive tax and a regressive tax; in a progressive tax, the percentage that goes to taxes gets larger as the amount of money being taxed gets larger, while in a regressive tax the percentage gets smaller.

Examples of regress in a Sentence


The patient is regressing to a childlike state. in extreme circumstances, people sometimes regress to the behavior they exhibited in childhood

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Despite Carlson's seemingly amicable regress, and her costars' continued support, Estes admits the adjustment wasn't easy. Kelly O'sullivan, Country Living, "'Blue Bloods' Star Will Estes Opens Up About Amy Carlson's 'Shocking' Exit," 6 Oct. 2018 Yet if Keenum regresses, starts committing turnovers or can't consistently lead scoring drives, the Broncos will find themselves in the quarterback market again. Lindsay H. Jones, USA TODAY, "Broncos training camp questions: Is Case Keenum long-term answer at QB?," 28 June 2018 By making Elastigirl no more than an extension of her family, Incredibles 2 regresses to a time when any power women managed to acquire was carefully controlled so as not constitute a threat to the male order. Andrea Thompson, Chicago Reader, "Incredibles 2 : Who’s afraid of the superpowered woman?," 29 June 2018 There would be a possible upset scenario if Good Magic improves and Justify regresses. Joe Sullivan,, "In Preakness, the coast looks clear for Justify," 17 May 2018 Even if Drew Brees regresses or gets hurt, the running game can carry the offense. Steven Ruiz, For The Win, "Picking the 2018 win total over/under for all 32 NFL teams," 1 May 2018 There’s also something stunted about Anderson’s eternal regress to age twelve. Christian Lorentzen, The New Republic, "The earnest, ironic stylings of Wes Anderson’s “Isle of Dogs”," 21 Mar. 2018 Venezuela remains the most dramatic case of democratic regress in Latin America. The Economist, "BelloHow Venezuela tests Latin America’s commitment to democracy," 1 Mar. 2018 Plus, Elway is expected to embark on yet another veteran QB search after watching his offense regress under the turnstile trio of Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler and Paxton Lynch, all of them his draft picks. USA TODAY, "Elway decides to keep Broncos coach Joseph after 5-11 season," 1 Jan. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Perhaps more than the other two changing norms about democracy, this one has shifted forward and also regressed. Julia Azari, Vox, "The forgotten majority: how norms inform the practice of democracy," 21 Sep. 2018 Catcher Manny Piña also has regressed badly at the plate after a solid 2017 season (.279, nine HRs, 43 RBI, .751 OPS in 107 games). Tom Haudricourt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Haudricourt: Brewers have few options as they wait for Orlando Arcia to get going at plate," 15 June 2018 The improbable things that happen for 40 minutes one night tend to regress to the mean the next. Dan Wolken, USA TODAY, "Kansas State knocks out No. 16 seed UMBC, ending Cinderella run," 18 Mar. 2018 Here’s how to do the Romanian deadlift, plus ideas for regressing and progressing the move. Jenny Mccoy, SELF, "Why Doing Romanian Deadlifts Like Romee Strijd Is a Great Way to Stretch and Strengthen Your Hamstrings," 23 Oct. 2018 But Sales’s solution seems to be regressing, at least somewhat, to the way things were. Bridget Read, Vogue, "Swiped, a New Documentary About Dating Apps, Tells Us We’re Screwed," 7 Sep. 2018 Having taken that step forward, how many of them would continue to trend in the right direction and how many would regress? Tom Haudricourt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Haudricourt: Pitching carried Brewers in April but schedule gets more difficult in May," 4 May 2018 Judge will likely have the edge in power (Judge may regress from 52 homers, but Martinez’s career high was 38 before last year). Michael Beller,, "Fantasy Baseball Debate: Aaron Judge vs. J.D. Martinez," 22 Mar. 2018 But since the financial crisis of 2007-08, democracy has regressed. The Economist, "After decades of triumph, democracy is losing ground," 14 June 2018

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


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


circa 1522, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1a

History and Etymology for regress


Middle English regresse, from Anglo-French, from Latin regressus, from regredi to go back, from re- + gradi to go — more at grade

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Statistics for regress

Last Updated

19 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for regress

The first known use of regress was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for regress



English Language Learners Definition of regress

: to return to an earlier and usually worse or less developed condition or state

re·​gress | \ri-ˈgres \

Medical Definition of regress 

: to undergo or exhibit regression a regressing lesion

transitive verb

: to induce a state of psychological regression in regress a hypnotized subject

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More from Merriam-Webster on regress

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with regress

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for regress

Spanish Central: Translation of regress

Nglish: Translation of regress for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of regress for Arabic Speakers

Comments on regress

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