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What does condescending mean?
To be condescending is to interact with others in a way that implies that you’re superior to them. It especially refers to when this is done in an arrogant or patronizing way—meaning when you act as if you’re doing someone a favor by supposedly lowering yourself to their level of understanding or intelligence.
Condescending is always used negatively and implies that such behavior is insulting to the person or people it’s directed toward.
The word can be used to describe a person, their actions, or their words. It’s especially applied to words like comment, tone, and attitude. Being condescending often involves not only what is said, but also how it’s said. A condescending tone is often one that sounds like it’s directed at a child.
Condescending is most commonly used as an adjective, but it’s also the continuous tense (-ing form) of the verb condescend, which most commonly means to act in this way. The act of doing so is called condescension.
Example: You don’t have to be so condescending by explaining it to me with small words—I understand the topic just fine.
Where does condescending come from?
The first records of the word condescending as an adjective come from the 1600s. The verb condescend is recorded much earlier, in the 1300s. They both derive from the Late Latin condēscendere, which means “to stoop” and comes from the Latin dēscendere, “to descend.”
Being condescending always involves stooping or descending to the level of those whom the condescending person considers inferior. A person who’s considered condescending usually isn’t outright insulting someone. Instead, they’re speaking as if the person they’re addressing doesn’t have the ability to understand their supposedly superior intelligence.
Condescending and patronizing are often used as synonyms, but they can have slightly different shades of meaning. A person described as patronizing may simply be telling someone what they think they want to hear. But more often than not, someone who’s described as condescending is intentionally trying to display their supposed superiority through their tone.
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What are some other forms related to condescending?
- condescendingly (adverb)
- uncondescending (adjective)
- condescend (verb)
What are some synonyms for condescending?
What are some words that share a root or word element with condescending?
What are some words that often get used in discussing condescending?
How is condescending used in real life?
Condescending is always used negatively to imply rudeness or disrespect. It’s especially used to describe someone’s tone when speaking.
Ok but really watching Miss Universe, can we get a host who isn’t condescending to these women. He just told Miss Canada an engineer & model that she should stick w modeling 😐
— Jonathan Van Ness (@jvn) December 17, 2018
Just a quick note, because it comes up a lot: it is generally reasonable to be skeptical of info, even from experts! But if you challenge an expert on their topic of expertise in a condescending way, and are wrong, they will probably be annoyed and think you are quite rude! 🙃
— Katie Mack (@AstroKatie) December 31, 2018
Telling someone who's sad to snap out of it and smile, because they're prettier that way, isn't helpful. It's condescending and places value on good emotions and appearances alone… specifically, how those appearances affect YOU, the observer. It's inconsiderate. Don't do it.
— The Girl Who Came to Say ACAB (@Mom_Overboard) December 13, 2018
Try using condescending!
Which of the following words is NOT a synonym for condescending?
Example sentences from the Web for condescending
Although Huckabee's condescending tone - like that of an elementary school history teacher - makes it difficult to take seriously.Huckabee 2016: Bend Over and Take It Like a Prisoner!|Olivia Nuzzi|January 8, 2015|DAILY BEAST
The document said Wright was condescending and had “resorted to name-calling,” though no examples were offered.Two Texas Regulators Tried to Enforce the Rules. They Were Fired.|David Hasemyer, InsideClimate News|December 9, 2014|DAILY BEAST
Dovlatov hated Soviet oppression and battled repression subtly, by not condescending to notice it, and keeping things light.
Thorns support is for everyone, and there are no pastel colors or condescending cursive.Portland Is Ground Zero for the Best Women’s Soccer in the World|Evelyn Shoop|June 30, 2014|DAILY BEAST
Cruz is more arrogant, having alienated even some Republican senators with his condescending put-downs.Marco Rubio, the Real Threat in 2016, Has Been Eclipsed by Ted Cruz|Peter Beinart|August 26, 2013|DAILY BEAST
I found him very affable and condescending, and he was pleased to compliment me on my skill in barber-craft.Tales of the Wonder Club, Volume II|Alexander Huth
From patronizing and condescending, the Third Estate, as all the world knows, speedily became aggressive and arbitrary.Caricature and Other Comic Art|James Parton.
Miss Dacre yielded to the public voice, and acted to the life the gratified and condescending air of a first-rate performer.The Young Duke|Benjamin Disraeli
It soon must have become clear to him that Handel was rapidly outgrowing any need of his condescending patronage.Handel|Edward J. Dent
At such times he spoke of his antecedents in a lordly and condescending fashion which we found amusing.The Best Short Stories of 1920|Various