degenerate

adjective
de·​gen·​er·​ate | \ di-ˈjen-rət How to pronounce degenerate (audio) , -ˈje-nə-, dē- \

Essential Meaning of degenerate

: having low moral standards : not honest, proper, or good He criticizes what he believes is a degenerate society.

Full Definition of degenerate

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1a : having declined or become less specialized (as in nature, character, structure, or function) from an ancestral or former state the last degenerate member of a noble family— W. E. Swinton
b : having sunk to a condition below that which is normal to a type … fruit so degenerate that the insects weren't even interested …— Tamar Perla especially : having sunk to a lower and usually corrupt and vicious state a degenerate schemer a despairing and degenerate world had sunk into servitude beneath him — W. L. Sullivan
c : degraded sense 2 the functionally degenerate wings of the species
2 mathematics : being simpler (as by having a factor or constant equal to zero) than the typical case a degenerate hyperbola
3 physics and astronomy : characterized by atoms stripped of their electrons and by very great density degenerate matter also : consisting of degenerate matter a degenerate star
4 physics and chemistry : having two or more states or subdivisions especially of the same energy or frequency degenerate energy level degenerate oscillation
5 genetics : having more than one codon representing an amino acid also : being such a codon

degenerate

verb
de·​gen·​er·​ate | \ di-ˈje-nə-ˌrāt How to pronounce degenerate (audio) , dē- \
degenerated; degenerating; degenerates

Definition of degenerate (Entry 2 of 3)

intransitive verb

1 : to pass from a higher to a lower type or condition : deteriorate her fixed mysterious smile degenerated into a fatuous stare— J. C. Powys
2 : to sink into a low intellectual or moral state The debate degenerated into a shouting match. At the same time, discotheques degenerated into seedier venues … —shifty, often Mob-run last-martini stops for business commuters …— Peter Braunstein
3 : to decline in quality the poetry gradually degenerates into jingles … the sitcom has degenerated into a sparring ring of personal insult— James Wolcott
4 biology : to decline from a condition or from the standards of a species, race, or breed
5 biology : to evolve or develop into a less autonomous (see autonomous sense 2a) or less functionally active form degenerated into dependent parasites

transitive verb

: to cause to degenerate

degenerate

noun
de·​gen·​er·​ate | \ di-ˈjen-rət How to pronounce degenerate (audio) , -ˈje-nə-, dē- \

Definition of degenerate (Entry 3 of 3)

: one that is degenerate (see degenerate entry 1) : such as
a : one degraded from the normal moral standard social degenerates
b : a sexual pervert
c anthropology : one showing signs of reversion (see reversion sense 3a) to an earlier culture stage

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from degenerate

Adjective

degenerately adverb
degenerateness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for degenerate

Synonyms: Adjective

Synonyms: Verb

Synonyms: Noun

Antonyms: Adjective

  • undecadent

Antonyms: Verb

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Choose the Right Synonym for degenerate

Adjective

vicious, villainous, iniquitous, nefarious, corrupt, degenerate mean highly reprehensible or offensive in character, nature, or conduct. vicious may directly oppose virtuous in implying moral depravity, or may connote malignancy, cruelty, or destructive violence. a vicious gangster villainous applies to any evil, depraved, or vile conduct or characteristic. a villainous assault iniquitous implies absence of all signs of justice or fairness. an iniquitous system of taxation nefarious suggests flagrant breaching of time-honored laws and traditions of conduct. the nefarious rackets of organized crime corrupt stresses a loss of moral integrity or probity causing betrayal of principle or sworn obligations. city hall was rife with corrupt politicians degenerate suggests having sunk to an especially vicious or enervated condition. a degenerate regime propped up by foreign powers

Examples of degenerate in a Sentence

Adjective He criticizes what he believes is a degenerate society. a degenerate society in which people had no sense of being citizens, only consumers Verb over the years the community-minded organization degenerated into a club for loafers Noun a couple of degenerates on a crime spree a degenerate who is uninterested in anything but his own gratification
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Fiona Nova and Will Neff; rising livestreamer CodeMiko; and a degenerate rat-puppet named Ratty. Todd Spangler, Variety, 12 Oct. 2021 Prior to the GameStop madness, when the subreddit Wall Street Bets was a quieter community of degenerate gamblers, members tracked Paul Pelosi’s market moves, often treating them as a joke about their own compulsive trading. Walter Shapiro, The New Republic, 12 Aug. 2021 Instead of rejecting Ji-Yoon’s degenerate boyfriend, her father sees him safely home. Amanda Whiting, Vulture, 21 Aug. 2021 Prior to the GameStop madness, when the subreddit Wall Street Bets was a quieter community of degenerate gamblers, members tracked Paul Pelosi’s market moves, often treating them as a joke about their own compulsive trading. Walter Shapiro, The New Republic, 12 Aug. 2021 The Nazis viewed French culture as degenerate and dangerous but also as a useful distraction to keep Parisians from rebelling. Timothy Schaffert, WSJ, 23 July 2021 There is not enough room in this column — hell, in this newspaper — to explain how much of a degenerate Steve Flemmi is. BostonGlobe.com, 19 July 2021 One courageous teacher, Herr Kraus, had shown the teen work by artists the Nazis had banned as degenerate — some of the great expressionists, surrealists, and abstract artists of the 20th century. BostonGlobe.com, 26 May 2021 The only Crow who is prospering, perhaps predictably, is our beloved, sharpshooting, degenerate gambler. Devon Maloney, Vulture, 24 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The hurricane center said Rose should also degenerate into a remnant low in the next few days. Leigh Morgan, al, 22 Sep. 2021 Otherwise, discussions degenerate into exchanges of ad hoc opinions, much like our larger civic debates today. WSJ, 24 Aug. 2021 Conservatives fear the constitutional process will degenerate into a populist path for one leader to consolidate executive power, as has occurred in Bolivia and Venezuela. Daniela Mohor W., CNN, 4 July 2021 In previous studies, researchers have been able to treat a genetic form of blindness called Leber congenital amaurosis, by fixing a faulty gene that would otherwise cause photoreceptors to gradually degenerate. BostonGlobe.com, 24 May 2021 More than 35 years after his big-screen debut as ace degenerate Johnny Lawrence in The Karate Kid, William Zabka is now a legitimate Emmy contender for his performance as adult Johnny on Netflix's Cobra Kai. Kristen Baldwin, EW.com, 17 May 2021 His wife, Suzanne Matthews, who was also a C.I.A. officer, said the cause was corticobasal degeneration, a rare disease in which nerve cells degenerate and die. New York Times, 2 May 2021 But don't expect a human-monkey species running around; Wu said by day 20, all the embryos will degenerate or collapse. Asha C. Gilbert, USA TODAY, 15 Apr. 2021 The event would quickly degenerate into brawls, just what some of the Proud Boys had anticipated. New York Times, 14 Mar. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun When someone has Alzheimer's disease, the person's brain cells that retrieve, process and store information degenerate and die, according to the Alzheimer's Association. Kristen Rogers, CNN, 30 Aug. 2021 The activities often took place at cast members’ ancestral plantations, but sometimes — and this is how Bonaparte, who is not a degenerate, comes in — at Bonaparte’s restaurants. Anna Peele, Vulture, 14 Apr. 2021 In his most famous exchange from the movie, Sally Kellerman’s Margaret Houlihan wonders how such a degenerate doctor as Donald Sutherland’s Hawkeye Pierce could reach a position of responsibility in the U.S. Army. Andrew Dealton, USA TODAY, 8 Dec. 2019 Adam Sandler plays a lying degenerate gambler in Uncut Gems, which in its sordid candor turns out to be one of the grabbiest films of the year. Kyle Smith, National Review, 11 Dec. 2019 In his most famous exchange from the movie, Sally Kellerman's Margaret Houlihan wonders how such a degenerate doctor as Donald Sutherland's Hawkeye Pierce could reach a position of responsibility in the U.S. Army. CBS News, 8 Dec. 2019 Besides, too great a concern with origin degenerates too easily into a concern with purity, and folklore is most impure. Kevin Young, The New Yorker, 2 Dec. 2019 Not just for dog owners, this fundraiser party offers athletes and degenerates alike a chance to try many local brews, meet some canine companions and support one of the region’s leading animal service organizations. Sameer Rao, baltimoresun.com, 1 Oct. 2019 For once, women whom mainstream society habitually ignored were being represented in pop culture as individuals with virtues and flaws, rather than as a monolithic mass of degenerates or vixens. Time, 22 July 2019

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

Adjective

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

Verb

1545, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

Noun

1555, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for degenerate

Adjective, Verb, and Noun

Middle English degenerat, from Latin degeneratus, past participle of degenerare to degenerate, from de- + gener-, genus race, kind — more at kin

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About degenerate

Time Traveler for degenerate

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near degenerate

degeneracy

degenerate

degeneration

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for degenerate

Last Updated

20 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Degenerate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/degenerate. Accessed 20 Oct. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon
Seen & Heard
People are talking about

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for degenerate

degenerate

adjective
de·​gen·​er·​ate | \ di-ˈjen-(ə-)rət How to pronounce degenerate (audio) \

Medical Definition of degenerate

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1a : having declined (as in nature, character, structure, or function) from an ancestral or former state especially : having deteriorated progressively (as in the process of evolution) especially through loss of structure and function
b : having sunk to a lower and usually corrupt and vicious state
2 : having more than one codon representing an amino acid also : being such a codon

degenerate

intransitive verb
de·​gen·​er·​ate | \ di-ˈjen-ə-ˌrāt How to pronounce degenerate (audio) \
degenerated; degenerating

Medical Definition of degenerate (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : to sink into a low intellectual or moral state
2 : to pass from a higher to a lower type or condition: as
a : to gradually deteriorate so that normal function or structure is impaired or lost the retina degenerated
b : to decline from the standards of a species, race, or breed
3 : to evolve or develop into a less autonomous or less functionally active form degenerated into dependent parasites

degenerate

noun
de·​gen·​er·​ate | \ di-ˈjen-(ə-)rət How to pronounce degenerate (audio) \

Medical Definition of degenerate (Entry 3 of 3)

: one that is degenerate: as
a : one degraded from the normal moral standard
b : a sexual pervert

More from Merriam-Webster on degenerate

Nglish: Translation of degenerate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of degenerate for Arabic Speakers

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Dog Words Quiz

  • shiba puppy more or less demanding cuddles
  • Which of the following animals has a dog in its etymology?
True or False

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

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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