[ dek-uh-duhnt, dih-keyd-nt ]
/ ˈdɛk ə dənt, dɪˈkeɪd nt /
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characterized by decadence, especially culturally or morally: a decadent life of excessive money and no sense of responsibility.
(often initial capital letter) of or like the decadents.
a person who is decadent.
(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


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


What does decadent mean?

Decadent is used to describe things, such as a society or era, that are thought to be in a state of deterioration or decay, especially due to being excessively morally corrupt or self-indulgent.

The state of being decadent is decadence.

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.

When capitalized, the word Decadent has a much more specific meaning. It refers to members of the group 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. Writers considered Decadents include French poet Arthur Rimbaud and Irish writer Oscar Wilde.

Example: Historians have traditionally depicted the late Roman Empire as a decadent society, but others have debated whether supposed corruption of morals actually contributed to its fall.

Where does decadent come from?

The first records of the word decadent come from the 1800s. It’s a back formation from the noun decadence, meaning that decadence came first and was then made into the adjective decadent. The first records of the word decadence come from the mid-1500s. It ultimately comes from the Latin verb dēcadere, meaning “to fall away.”

Describing a society as decadent 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 describes chocolate cake as decadent, 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 decadent?

What are some synonyms for decadent?

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

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

How is decadent used in real life?

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



Try using decadent!

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

A. pure
B. degenerate
C. depraved
D. immoral

How to use decadent in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for decadent

/ (ˈdɛkədənt) /

characterized by decay or decline, as in being self-indulgent or morally corrupt
belonging to a period of decline in artistic standards
a decadent person
(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

Derived forms of decadent

decadently, 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