from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Having declined, as in function or nature, from a former or original state: a degenerate form of an ancient folk art.
  • adj. Having fallen to an inferior or undesirable state, especially in mental or moral qualities.
  • adj. Physics Relating to two or more quantum states that share the same quantum numbers: degenerate energy levels.
  • adj. Physics Characterized by great density and consisting of atoms stripped of electrons: degenerate matter.
  • adj. Medicine Characterized by degeneration, as of tissue, a cell, or an organ.
  • adj. Biology Having lost one or more highly developed functions, characteristics, or structures through evolution: a degenerate life form.
  • adj. Genetics Having more than one codon that may code for the same amino acid.
  • n. A depraved, corrupt, or vicious person.
  • n. A person lacking or having progressively lost normative biological or psychological characteristics.
  • intransitive v. To fall below a normal or desirable state, especially functionally or morally; deteriorate: old water pipes that are degenerating with age; a dispute that degenerated into a brawl.
  • intransitive v. To decline in quality: The quality of his writing degenerated as he continued to drink.
  • intransitive v. To undergo degeneration.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. having deteriorated, degraded or fallen from normal, coherent, balanced and desirable to an undesirable and typically abnormal
  • adj. having lost good or desirable qualities
  • adj. having multiple domain elements correspond to one element of the range
  • adj. a degenerate case is a limiting case in which a class of object changes its nature so as to belong to another, usually simpler, class.
  • adj. Having the same quantum energy level
  • n. One is degenerate, who has fallen from previous stature.
  • v. (of humans or systems) to lose good or desirable qualities;

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Having become worse than one's kind, or one's former state; having declined in worth; having lost in goodness; deteriorated; degraded; unworthy; base; low.
  • n. a person who has declined from a high standard, especially a sexual deviate; -- usually used disparagingly or opprobriously of persons whose sexual behavior does not conform to the norms of accepted morals.
  • n. a person or thing that has fallen from a higher to a lower state, or reverted to an earlier type or stage of development or culture.
  • intransitive v. To be or grow worse than one's kind, or than one was originally; hence, to be inferior; to grow poorer, meaner, or more vicious; to decline in good qualities; to deteriorate.
  • intransitive v. To fall off from the normal quality or the healthy structure of its kind; to become of a lower type.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To lose, or become impaired with respect to, the qualities proper to the race or kind, or to a prototype; become of a lower type.
  • Specifically To decay in quality; pass to an inferior or a worse state; suffer a decline in character or constitution; deteriorate.
  • Synonyms To deteriorate, decline.
  • Having lost, or become impaired with respect to, the qualities proper to the race or kind; having been reduced to a lower type.
  • Specifically Having fallen into a less excellent or a worse state; having declined in physical or moral qualities; deteriorated; degraded.
  • Characterized by or associated with degeneracy; unworthy; debased: applied to inanimate objects.
  • n. One who has retrograded from a normal type or standard, especially in moral nature and character, and exhibits certain morbid physical and mental traits and tendencies.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. grow worse
  • adj. unrestrained by convention or morality
  • n. a person whose behavior deviates from what is acceptable especially in sexual behavior


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

Latin dēgenerātus, past participle of dēgenerāre, to depart from one's own kind, deteriorate : dē-, de- + genus, gener-, race; see genə- in Indo-European roots.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Latin degeneratus, past participle of degenerare ("to degenerate"), from degener ("ignoble"), from de ("from, down") + genus ("race, kind"); see genus, general.


  • I can think of no more potent objection to such inclusive use of the term degenerate, than the fact that Lombroso includes, under the signs of degeneration, the enormous development of the cerebral speech-area in the case of an accomplished orator.

    Why Worry?

  • The word degenerate has appeared in 43 New York Times articles in the past year, including on June 25 in Sit Up Straight.

    NYT > Home Page

  • Learn more about the word "degenerate" and see usage examples across a range of subjects on the dictionary.

    NYT > Home Page

  • Someone you call a degenerate and a slut who uses and discards people like Kleenex?

    The Glass Rainbow

  • As long as we persist in reducing any debate about immediacy and complexity to an argument over populism and elitism, though, that debate will continue to degenerate from a discussion of aesthetics to a political struggle between Populists and Elitists, each seeking to impose their view on How Writing Is Done.

    Archive 2007-02-01

  • I'm sure its because they know there really is a God, but they want to deny his existence so they can continue to engage in degenerate sexual activity.

    Cleaning Up The Mess

  • But the tyrant remarking that the domestic ass, which eats beans, is degenerate from the wild ass, uprooted the pistachio-trees and compelled the lieges to feed on beans which made them a heavy, gross, cowardly people fit only for burdens.

    The Book of The Thousand Nights And A Night

  • It is a familiar fact that the armor which inclosed them will not hold those whom we call their degenerate children.

    The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 16, No. 96, October 1865

  • At any rate, the Greeks have certain human qualities which the Italians are still prepared to admit; and whatever adjectives they are using about the British Fleet, and I am pretty sure some of them are not exactly nice, I am quite sure degenerate is not one of them.

    The Difficulties of the Axis

  • God takes it ill when children degenerate from the virtue and devotion of their pious ancestors.

    Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume IV (Isaiah to Malachi)


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