[ dek-uh-duhns, dih-keyd-ns ]
/ ˈdɛk ə dəns, dɪˈkeɪd ns /
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the act or process of falling into an inferior condition or state; deterioration; decay: Some historians hold that the fall of Rome can be attributed to internal decadence.
moral degeneration or decay; turpitude.
unrestrained or excessive self-indulgence.
(often initial capital letter) the decadent movement in literature.
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Also dec·a·den·cy [dek-uh-duhn-see, dih-keyd-n-]. /ˈdɛk ə dən si, dɪˈkeɪd n-/.

Origin of decadence

1540–50; <Middle French <Medieval Latin dēcadentia, equivalent to Late Latin dēcadent- (stem of dēcadēns), present participle of dēcadere to fall away (de-de- +cad(ere) to fall + -ent--ent) + -ia noun suffix; see -ence


non·dec·a·dence, nounnon·dec·a·den·cy, nouno·ver·dec·a·dence, noun

Words nearby decadence

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


What does decadence mean?

Decadence is a state of deterioration or decay, especially due to being excessively morally corrupt or self-indulgent.

The adjective form of decadence is decadent, which is used to describe things in such a state, especially societies or behavior.

Decadent is also popularly used in a somewhat figurative way to describe things that are extremely indulgent, especially rich foods, as in That triple chocolate cake is so decadent that I think I can only finish half a piece. The word decadence can refer to the extreme richness or luxury of such things.

When capitalized, the word Decadence has a much more specific meaning. It refers to a movement of French and English writers in the second half of the 1800s whose works were known for their refined and subtle style and sometimes abnormal content. Such writers are called Decadents and include French poet Arthur Rimbaud and Irish writer Oscar Wilde.

Example: Historians have traditionally depicted the late Roman Empire as having been brought down in part by its decadence, but others have debated whether supposed corruption of morals actually contributed to its fall.a

Where does decadence come from?

The first records of the word decadence come from the mid-1500s. It ultimately comes from the Latin verb dēcadere, meaning “to fall away.” The adjective decadent is actually a back formation from the noun decadence, meaning that decadence came first and was then made into the adjective decadent.

Referring to the decadence of a society or a behavior is a way of criticizing it for having fallen away and deteriorated into a state thought to be inferior. The word especially implies the belief that people’s morals have decayed on a large scale and they are indulging in behaviors that were previously considered unacceptable.

When someone refers to the decadence of a chocolate cake, they’re using the word in a figurative way that implies that it’s so rich and indulgent that it’s almost immoral—such desserts are often similarly described as sinful.

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What are some other forms related to decadence?

What are some synonyms for decadence?

What are some words that share a root or word element with decadence

What are some words that often get used in discussing decadence?

How is decadence used in real life?

Decadence is perhaps most popularly used in reference to rich desserts, especially chocolate ones. When it’s used in reference to a society, it’s intended as a negative judgment.



Try using decadence!

Which of the following words is NOT a synonym of decadence?

A. decency
B. degeneration
C. deterioration
D. decline

How to use decadence in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for decadence



/ (ˈdɛkədəns) /

deterioration, esp of morality or culture; decay; degeneration
the state reached through such a process

Word Origin for decadence

C16: from French, from Medieval Latin dēcadentia, literally: a falling away; see decay
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