[ kon-duh-sen-ding ]
/ ˌkɒn dəˈsɛn dɪŋ /
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showing or implying a usually patronizing descent from dignity or superiority: They resented the older neighbors' condescending cordiality.


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Origin of condescending

First recorded in 1630–40; condescend + -ing2

OTHER WORDS FROM condescending

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


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.



Try using condescending!

Which of the following words is NOT a synonym for condescending?

A. snooty
B. modest
C. arrogant
D. patronizing

How to use condescending in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for condescending

/ (ˌkɒndɪˈsɛndɪŋ) /

showing or implying condescension by stooping to the level of one's inferiors, esp in a patronizing way

Derived forms of condescending

condescendingly, adverb
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