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

  • transitive v. To reduce in grade, rank, or status; demote.
  • transitive v. To lower in dignity; dishonor or disgrace: a scandal that degraded the participants.
  • transitive v. To lower in moral or intellectual character; debase.
  • transitive v. To reduce in worth or value: degrade a currency.
  • transitive v. To impair in physical structure or function.
  • transitive v. Geology To lower or wear by erosion or weathering.
  • transitive v. To cause (an organic compound) to undergo degradation.
  • intransitive v. To fall below a normal state; deteriorate.
  • intransitive v. To undergo degradation; decompose: a chemical that degrades rapidly.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To lower in value or social position.
  • v. To reduce in quality or purity.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • intransitive v. To degenerate; to pass from a higher to a lower type of structure.
  • transitive v. To reduce from a higher to a lower rank or degree; to lower in rank; to deprive of office or dignity; to strip of honors.
  • transitive v. To reduce in estimation, character, or reputation; to lessen the value of; to lower the physical, moral, or intellectual character of; to debase; to bring shame or contempt upon; to disgrace.
  • transitive v. To reduce in altitude or magnitude, as hills and mountains; to wear down.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To reduce from a higher to a lower rank, degree, or type. Specifically
  • To deprive of any office or dignity; strip of honors: as, to degrade a general officer.
  • To lower in character; cause to deteriorate; lessen the value or worth of; debase: as, drunkenness degrades a man to the level of a beast.
  • In biology: To reduce in taxonomic rank; lower in the scale of classification: as, to degrade an order to the rank of a family.
  • To reduce in complexity of structure or function; simplify morphologically or physiologically: as, an organism degraded by parasitic habit.
  • In geology, to reduce in altitude or magnitude, as hills and mountains or icebergs; wear down, as by the weather.
  • In optics, to lower in position in the spectrum; increase the wave-length of (a ray of light), and hence diminish (its) refrangibility, as by the action of a fluorescent substance. See fluorescence.
  • To diminish the strength, purity, size, etc., of.
  • Synonyms and Debase, Disgrace, etc. (see abase); to dishonor, break, cashier, reduce to inferior rank. To lower, sink, impair, injure, pervert, pollute. See list under debase.
  • In natural history, to degenerate in type; pass from a higher type of structure to a lower.
  • To degenerate; become lower in character; deteriorate.
  • In a university, to take, for some particular reason, a lower degree than one is entitled to, or to avoid taking a degree at the proper or usual time; descend from a higher to a lower degree.
  • In thermodynamics, to convert from a form of greater to one of less availability: said of certain transformations of energy.

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

  • v. lower the grade of something; reduce its worth
  • v. reduce the level of land, as by erosion
  • v. reduce in worth or character, usually verbally


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

Middle English degraden, from Old French degrader, from Late Latin dēgradāre : Latin dē-, de- + Latin gradus, step; see ghredh- in Indo-European roots.



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