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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?
How to use condescending in a sentence
The requests that are like, “Oh this is quick and easy,” are super condescending.‘It can easily spin out of control’: Confessions of a freelance creative on the rise of scope creep|Kristina Monllos|June 10, 2021|Digiday
He doesn’t just give you these dramatic, monologic scenes of grandstanding and proselytizing, he also does so alongside his personalized smug condescending version of the narrative — in this case, his version of the historical narrative.Our mixed feelings about The Trial of the Chicago 7, explained|Aja Romano|April 12, 2021|Vox
Claire thought the attacks on her husband were unfair and even condescending.
After nearly two decades in baseball front offices, Ng had become accustomed to the condescending glances, outright hostility and attempts at intimidation that come with being the only woman in the room.How Kim Ng, Major League Baseball's First Female GM, Finally Got the Top Job|Sean Gregory|March 3, 2021|Time
During the meeting, teachers should do an extra check-in, in a friendly, non-condescending way.Online classes are difficult for the hard of hearing. Here’s how to fix that.|Eli Reiter|February 9, 2021|Popular-Science
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
The idea that the Church needs a separate theology for women is plain condescending.
He likes a man to speak out his mind like a man, which you know is very condescending on his part.The World Before Them|Susanna Moodie
The aggravating smile of condescending wisdom kept playing about his lips.Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist|Alexander Berkman
The Covenant of Sinai was confirmed in a manner the most encouraging, as well as condescending and glorious.The Ordinance of Covenanting|John Cunningham
In other circles Mrs. Errington was by no means so cool and condescending in speaking of the doctor's projected party.A Charming Fellow, Volume II (of 3)|Frances Eleanor Trollope
I hate him—I hate him as much as I loathe myself for ever condescending to follow him.Riders of the Silences|John Frederick