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verb (used with object), de·mot·ed, de·mot·ing.
  1. to reduce to a lower grade, rank, class, or position (opposed to promote): They demoted the careless waiter to busboy.
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Origin of demote

An Americanism dating back to 1890–95; de- + (pro)mote
Related formsde·mo·tion, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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Examples from the Web for demotion

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • He just felt that he was reasonably secure against promotion, and that he need not be afraid of "demotion."

    John Wesley, Jr.

    Dan B. Brummitt

British Dictionary definitions for demotion


  1. (tr) to lower in rank or position; relegate
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Derived Formsdemotion, noun

Word Origin

C19: from de- + (pro) mote
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 demotion


1901, agent noun from demote (v.).

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1881, American English coinage from de- + stem of promote. Said to have been Midwestern in origin.

Regarding an antithesis to 'promote,' the word universally in use in Cambridge, in Harvard College, is drop. The same word is in use in the leading schools here (Boston). I hope I may be counted every time against such barbarisms as 'demote' and 'retromote.' [Edward Everett Hale, 1892, letter to the publishers of "Funk & Wagnalls' Standard Dictionary"]

Related: Demoted; demoting.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper