Origin of degenerate

1485–95; < Latin dēgenerātus (past participle of dēgenerāre to decline from an ancestral standard), equivalent to de- + gener-, stem of genus race (see genus) + -ātus -ate1; see generate
Related formsde·gen·er·ate·ly, adverbde·gen·er·ate·ness, nounnon·de·gen·er·ate, adjective, nounnon·de·gen·er·ate·ly, adverbnon·de·gen·er·ate·ness, nounpre·de·gen·er·ate, adjectiveun·de·gen·er·ate, adjectiveun·de·gen·er·at·ed, adjectiveun·de·gen·er·at·ing, adjective

Synonyms for degenerate

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

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British Dictionary definitions for degenerate


verb (dɪˈdʒɛnəˌreɪt) (intr)

to become degenerate
biology (of organisms or their parts) to become less specialized or functionally useless

adjective (dɪˈdʒɛnərɪt)

having declined or deteriorated to a lower mental, moral, or physical level; debased; degraded; corrupt
  1. (of the constituents of a system) having the same energy but different wave functions
  2. (of a semiconductor) containing a similar number of electrons in the conduction band to the number of electrons in the conduction band of metals
  3. (of a resonant device) having two or more modes of equal frequency
(of a code) containing symbols that represent more than one letter, figure, etc
(of a plant or animal) having undergone degeneration

noun (dɪˈdʒɛnərɪt)

a degenerate person
Derived Formsdegenerately, adverbdegenerateness, noun

Word Origin for degenerate

C15: from Latin dēgenerāre, from dēgener departing from its kind, ignoble, from de- + genus origin, race
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 degenerate

late 15c., from Latin degeneratus, past participle of degenerare "to be inferior to one's ancestors, to become unlike one's race or kind, fall from ancestral quality," used of physical as well as moral qualities, from phrase de genere, from de + genus (genitive generis) "birth, descent" (see genus). The noun is from 1550s.


1540s, from Latin degeneratus, past participle of degenerare "fall from ancestral quality" (see degenerate (adj.)). Figurative sense of "to fall off, decline" was in Latin. Related: Degenerated; degenerating.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

degenerate in Medicine




Characterized by degeneration, as of tissue, a cell, or an organ.
Having lost one or more highly developed functions, characteristics, or structures through evolution.


To undergo the process of degeneration.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.