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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.

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. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for denigrate


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

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper