[dih-greyd or for 3, dee-greyd]
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verb (used with object), de·grad·ed, de·grad·ing.
  1. to lower in dignity or estimation; bring into contempt: He felt they were degrading him by making him report to the supervisor.
  2. to lower in character or quality; debase.
  3. to reduce (someone) to a lower rank, degree, etc.; deprive of office, rank, status, or title, especially as a punishment: degraded from director to assistant director.
  4. to reduce in amount, strength, intensity, etc.
  5. Physical Geography. to wear down by erosion, as hills.Compare aggrade.
  6. Chemistry. to break down (a compound, especially an organic hydrocarbon).
verb (used without object), de·grad·ed, de·grad·ing.
  1. to become degraded; weaken or worsen; deteriorate.
  2. Chemistry. (especially of an organic hydrocarbon compound) to break down or decompose.

Origin of degrade

1275–1325; Middle English degraden < Late Latin dēgradāre, equivalent to Latin dē- de- + grad(us) grade + -āre infinitive suffix
Related formsde·grad·er, noun

Synonyms for degrade

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Synonym study

1. See humble.

Antonyms for degrade

1, 2. exalt. 3. promote. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for degrade

Contemporary Examples of degrade

Historical Examples of degrade

British Dictionary definitions for degrade


  1. (tr) to reduce in worth, character, etc; disgrace; dishonour
  2. (diːˈɡreɪd) (tr) to reduce in rank, status, or degree; remove from office; demote
  3. (tr) to reduce in strength, quality, intensity, etc
  4. to reduce or be reduced by erosion or down-cutting, as a land surface or bed of a riverCompare aggrade
  5. chem to decompose or be decomposed into atoms or smaller molecules
Derived Formsdegrader, noun

Word Origin for degrade

C14: from Late Latin dēgradāre, from Latin de- + gradus rank, degree
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 degrade

late 14c., from Old French degrader (12c.) "degrade, deprive (of office, rank, etc.)," from des- "down" (see dis-) + Latin gradus "step" (see grade (n.)). Related: Degraded; degrading.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper