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[dek-uh-duhnt, dih-keyd-nt]
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  1. characterized by decadence, especially culturally or morally: a decadent life of excessive money and no sense of responsibility.
  2. (often initial capital letter) of or like the decadents.
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  1. a person who is decadent.
  2. (often initial capital letter) one of a group of French and English writers of the latter part of the 19th century whose works were characterized by aestheticism, great refinement or subtlety of style, and a marked tendency toward the artificial and abnormal in content.
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Origin of decadent

1830–40; back formation from decadence; see -ent
Related formsdec·a·dent·ly [dek-uh-duhnt-lee, dih-keyd-nt-] /ˈdɛk ə dənt li, dɪˈkeɪd nt-/, adverbnon·dec·a·dent, adjective, nouno·ver·dec·a·dent, adjectiveo·ver·dec·a·dent·ly, adverbsem·i·dec·a·dent, adjectivesem·i·dec·a·dent·ly, adverbun·dec·a·dent, adjectiveun·dec·a·dent·ly, adverb


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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for decadent


  1. characterized by decay or decline, as in being self-indulgent or morally corrupt
  2. belonging to a period of decline in artistic standards
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  1. a decadent person
  2. (often capital) one of a group of French and English writers of the late 19th century whose works were characterized by refinement of style and a tendency towards the artificial and abnormal
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Derived Formsdecadently, 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

Word Origin and History for decadent


"in a state of decline or decay (from a former condition of excellence)," 1837, from French décadent, back-formation from décadence (see decadence). In reference to literary (later, other artistic) schools that believed, or affected to believe, they lived in an age of artistic decadence, 1885 in French, 1888 in English. Usually in a bad sense, e.g.:

"Bread, supposedly the staff of life, has become one of our most decadent foods -- doughy, gummy, and without the aroma, flavor, texture, taste and appearance that is typical of good bread." ["College and University Business" 1960]

Beckoning sense of "desirable and satisfying to self-indulgence" begins c.1970 in commercial publications in reference to desserts.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper