de·​grade | \ di-ˈgrād How to pronounce degrade (audio) , dē- \
degraded; degrading; degrades

Definition of degrade

transitive verb

1a : to lower in grade, rank, or status : demote
b : to strip of rank or honors
c : to lower to an inferior or less effective level degrade the image quality
d : to scale down in desirability or salability
2a : to bring to low esteem or into disrepute his actions have degraded his profession punishments intended to humiliate and degrade prisoners
b : to drag down in moral or intellectual character : corrupt the Indians who consume peyote buttons do not seem to be … morally degraded by the habit— Aldous Huxley
3 : to impair in respect to some physical property material degraded by exposure to sunlight
4 geology : to wear down by erosion degraded the hillside
5 chemistry : to reduce the complexity of (a chemical compound) : decompose

intransitive verb

1 : to pass from a higher grade or class to a lower causes the meat to degrade in quality
2 of a chemical compound : to become reduced in complexity plastics that don't easily degrade

Other Words from degrade

degrader noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for degrade



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In Shakespeare's King Lear, the old king is degraded by the daughters he has given his kingdom to. He finds it degrading, for instance, when the number of his guards is reduced from 100 to 25. His degradation seems complete when, after going mad, he's reduced to living in the wilderness. As you can see, degrade is often a synonym for humiliate.

Examples of degrade in a Sentence

The group accuses the company of degrading women in its ads. He felt degraded by their remarks. Scratches on a camera lens will degrade the image. Pollution has degraded air quality.
Recent Examples on the Web Now, that is all with the assumption that the overall macro environment doesn’t degrade from here. Jeff John Roberts, Fortune, 1 Aug. 2022 Apaches and environmentalists are concerned that Mount Graham's unique ecology, already stressed by climate change, may degrade further due to development on the slopes. Debra Utacia Krol, The Arizona Republic, 21 July 2022 Dish wants to use the 12 GHz band for mobile service and says that sharing the spectrum wouldn't significantly degrade satellite broadband. Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica, 7 July 2022 Mars has an incredibly thin atmosphere, which means that the surface of the red planet is bombarded by high energy radiation from space, and that could quickly degrade substances like amino acids that provide fragile evidence of life. Ashley Strickland, CNN, 1 July 2022 Avoid the pitfalls of solely applying marketing or PR measurements to AR, which can create confusion and degrade the understanding your company has of AR. Regina Hoshimi, Forbes, 27 June 2022 Another is to use proteins or RNA that only target a specific fungal species and then rapidly degrade in the environment. Jonathan Margolis, Scientific American, 20 June 2022 Intense heat can cause blow-outs and degrade a vehicle’s battery. Gary Robbins, San Diego Union-Tribune, 7 June 2022 The Dutch healthcare conglomerate is amid a huge recall over concerns that a type of foam used in certain breathing-aid devices could degrade and release harmful, possibly cancer-causing particles. Denise Roland, WSJ, 25 Apr. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'degrade.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of degrade

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

History and Etymology for degrade

Middle English, from Anglo-French degrader, from Late Latin degradare, from Latin de- + gradus step, grade — more at grade entry 1

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Time Traveler for degrade

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The first known use of degrade was in the 14th century

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Dictionary Entries Near degrade

degradation of energy



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Last Updated

7 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Degrade.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for degrade


de·​grade | \ di-ˈgrād How to pronounce degrade (audio) \
degraded; degrading

Kids Definition of degrade

1 : to lower in character or dignity Mom feels that dressing animals in costumes degrades them.
2 : to break down or separate into simpler parts or substances Bacteria will degrade the spilled pollutant.
3 : to reduce from a higher to a lower rank or degree He was degraded to a private by his commander.


transitive verb
de·​grade | \ di-ˈgrād How to pronounce degrade (audio) \
degraded; degrading

Medical Definition of degrade

: to reduce the complexity of (a chemical compound) by splitting off one or more groups or larger components : decompose cellulose is degraded by the action of some bacteria

intransitive verb

: to undergo chemical degradation

More from Merriam-Webster on degrade

Nglish: Translation of degrade for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of degrade for Arabic Speakers


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