[ verb dih-jen-uh-reyt; adjective, noun dih-jen-er-it ]
See synonyms for: degeneratedegenerateddegenerating on

verb (used without object),de·gen·er·at·ed, de·gen·er·at·ing.
  1. to fall below a normal or desirable level in physical, mental, or moral qualities; deteriorate: The morale of the soldiers degenerated, and they were unable to fight.

  2. to diminish in quality, especially from a former state of coherence, balance, integrity, etc.: The debate degenerated into an exchange of insults.

  1. Pathology. to lose functional activity, as a tissue or organ.

  2. Evolution. (of a species or any of its traits or structures) to revert to a simple, less highly organized, or less functionally active type, as a parasitic plant that has lost its taproot or the vestigial wings of a flightless bird.

verb (used with object),de·gen·er·at·ed, de·gen·er·at·ing.
  1. to cause degeneration in; bring about a decline, deterioration, or reversion in.

  1. having fallen below a normal or desirable level, especially in physical or moral qualities; deteriorated; degraded: a degenerate king.

  2. having lost, or become impaired with respect to, the qualities proper to the species or kind: a degenerate vine.

  1. characterized by or associated with degeneracy: degenerate times.

  2. Mathematics. pertaining to a limiting case of a mathematical system that is more symmetrical or simpler in form than the general case.

  3. Physics.

    • (of modes of vibration of a system) having the same frequency.

    • (of quantum states of a system) having equal energy.

  1. a person who has declined, as in morals or character, from a type or standard considered normal.

  2. a person or thing that reverts to an earlier stage of culture, development, or evolution.

  1. a sexual deviate.

Origin of degenerate

First recorded in 1485–95; from Latin dēgenerātus “declined,” past participle of dēgenerāre “to decline from an ancestral standard, deteriorate”; equivalent to de- + generate

Other words for degenerate

Other words from degenerate

  • de·gen·er·ate·ly, adverb
  • de·gen·er·ate·ness, noun
  • non·de·gen·er·ate, adjective, noun
  • non·de·gen·er·ate·ly, adverb
  • non·de·gen·er·ate·ness, noun
  • pre·de·gen·er·ate, adjective
  • un·de·gen·er·ate, adjective
  • un·de·gen·er·at·ed, adjective
  • un·de·gen·er·at·ing, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use degenerate in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for degenerate


verb(dɪˈdʒɛnəˌreɪt) (intr)
  1. to become degenerate

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

  1. having declined or deteriorated to a lower mental, moral, or physical level; debased; degraded; corrupt

  2. physics

    • (of the constituents of a system) having the same energy but different wave functions

    • (of a semiconductor) containing a similar number of electrons in the conduction band to the number of electrons in the conduction band of metals

    • (of a resonant device) having two or more modes of equal frequency

  1. (of a code) containing symbols that represent more than one letter, figure, etc

  2. (of a plant or animal) having undergone degeneration

  1. a degenerate person

Origin of degenerate

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

Derived forms of degenerate

  • degenerately, adverb
  • degenerateness, noun

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