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

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

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 Some have called for a special counsel to investigate the special counsel, but that way lies infinite regress. David Frum, The Atlantic, "Conservatism Can't Survive Donald Trump Intact," 19 Dec. 2017

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

But since the financial crisis of 2007-08, democracy has regressed. The Economist, "After decades of triumph, democracy is losing ground," 14 June 2018 Johnson has been a noteworthy corner both in the slot and outside, and while the entire Houston defense regressed a year ago, his performances leading up to 2017 were consistent with that of a high performing first-rounder. Conor Orr,, "True NFL Draft Grades: 2015 Draft, Three Years Later," 29 May 2018 At one point the game's top pitching pospect, Giolito, 23, regressed in recent years but impressed in seven major league starts to end the 2017 season, posting a 2.38 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP. Jesse Yomtov, USA TODAY, "Breakout candidates and players who could disappoint in the 2018 MLB season," 28 Mar. 2018 Darly, who had been potty-trained before the separation, had regressed to diapers. New York Times, "As Migrant Families Are Reunited, Some Children Don’t Recognize Their Mothers," 10 July 2018 After moving up seven in the third period, the Heat regressed to their previous play, going into the fourth quarter in a 78-78 tie. Ira Winderman,, "Heat clinch playoff berth with harrowing 101-98 victory over Hawks," 4 Apr. 2018 Instead, the 26-year-old playmaker regressed, becoming the butt of jokes because of his theatrics and flops. John Leicester,, "Winds of football change blow at Russia World Cup," 7 July 2018 Beasley went on to have a solid season with the New York Knicks while both Snell and Terry regressed statistically. Matt Velazquez, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "2017-'18 Milwaukee Bucks team grades," 6 May 2018 Williams regressed last year, but still gave his owners 43 catches for 728 yards and four touchdowns, which made him the No. Michael Beller,, "Fantasy Football's Most Undervalued Receivers for 2018," 10 July 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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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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Comments on regress

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


something that serves to warn or remind

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