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verb (used with object), den·i·grat·ed, den·i·grat·ing.
  1. to speak damagingly of; criticize in a derogatory manner; sully; defame: to denigrate someone's character.
  2. to treat or represent as lacking in value or importance; belittle; disparage: to denigrate someone's contributions to a project.
  3. to make black; blacken: rain clouds denigrating the sky.
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Origin of denigrate

1520–30; < Latin dēnigrātus (past participle of dēnigrāre to blacken), equivalent to dē- de- + nigr(āre) to make black + -ātus -ate1
Related formsden·i·gra·tion, nounden·i·gra·tive, adjectiveden·i·gra·tor, nounden·i·gra·to·ry [den-i-gruh-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee] /ˈdɛn ɪ grəˌtɔr i, -ˌtoʊr i/, adjectiveself-den·i·grat·ing, adjectiveself-den·i·gra·tion, noun

Synonyms for denigrate

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Synonym study

1. See decry.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for denigrate

impugn, disparage, defame, slander, vilify, besmirch, blister, knock, revile, traduce, scandalize, blacken, asperse, decry, roast, libel, calumniate, dis

British Dictionary definitions for denigrate


  1. (tr) to belittle or disparage the character of; defame
  2. a rare word for blacken
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Derived Formsdenigration, noundenigrator, noun

Word Origin for denigrate

C16: from Latin dēnigrāre to make very black, defame, from nigrāre to blacken, from niger black
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 denigrate


1520s, from Latin denigratus, past participle of denigrare "to blacken, defame," from de- "completely" (see de-) + nigr-, stem of niger "black" (see Negro). of unknown origin. "Apparently disused in 18th c. and revived in 19th c." [OED]. Related: Denigrated; denigrating.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper