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verb (used with object)
  1. to lower in dignity, honor, or standing; debase: He demeaned himself by accepting the bribe.

Origin of demean1

1595–1605; de- + mean2, modeled on debase


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degrade, humble, humiliate, mortify.


dignify, honor.


verb (used with object)
  1. to conduct or behave (oneself) in a specified manner.
  1. Archaic. demeanor.

Origin of demean2

1250–1300; Middle English deme(i)nen < Anglo-French, Old French demener, equivalent to de- de- + mener to lead, conduct < Latin mināre to drive, minārī to threaten
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for demean

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Did she not break into lamentation and woe that a brother should so demean himself?

    The White Company

    Arthur Conan Doyle

  • One who has reached my years, and who has a name for wisdom, ought not to demean himself.



  • Of course he was not going to demean himself by talking to "that atheist's daughter."

    We Two

    Edna Lyall

  • She had been well tutored on every point, what to say and how to demean herself.

    The Golden Dog

    William Kirby

  • For all I've had to demean myself to wait on sich as you, I'm a Christian!

    A Sheaf of Corn

    Mary E. Mann

British Dictionary definitions for demean


  1. (tr) to lower (oneself) in dignity, status, or character; humble; debase

Word Origin

C17: see de-, mean ²; on the model of debase


  1. (tr) rare to behave or conduct (oneself) in a specified way

Word Origin

C13: from Old French demener, from de- + mener to lead, drive, from Latin mināre to drive (animals), from minārī to use threats
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for demean


"lower in dignity," c.1600, perhaps from de- "down" + mean (adj.) and modeled on debase. Indistinguishable in some uses from obsolete demean (see demeanor) which influenced it and may be its true source. Related: Demeaned; demeaning.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper