Origin of descent
historical usage of descent
Though the word descent has been around for over half a millennium, some of its early senses are still in use. In the 1330s one use of descent described familial ancestry. Darwin popularized and expanded this term in Victorian England with his study of the origins of humans and our simian relatives from a common ancestor. This sense is very familiar to speakers of current English who have studied natural history. We also often hear descent in the context of ancestry such as “African descent” or “Scandinavian descent.” Another early use describes an object moving from a higher position to a lower position. Today, we still use this sense when talking about the downward movement of an airplane as it prepares to land. In religious contexts, one might hear about the Descent of Christ into Hell, a sense first appropriated in the 19th century.
Be careful not to confuse descent with decent. While it’s easy to leave out just one “s,” people are sure to express dissent (another word not to be confused with descent ) with your diction.
popular references for descent
—Descent from the Cross: A biblical scene popularly depicted in art, of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus removing Christ from the cross after being crucified.
— The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex: Charles Darwin's book on evolutionary theory, first published in 1871.
—“The Descent”: A brief lyric poem by William Carlos Williams, first published in 1948.
— The Descent: A science-fiction novel by Jeff Long, published in 1999.
— The Descent: A British horror film, released in 2005 (with no relation to the novel of the same name).
OTHER WORDS FROM descentpre·de·scent, nounre·de·scent, noun
Quotations related to descent
- "I lay awake awhile, watching the ascent of the sparks through the firs, and sometimes their descent in half-extinguished cinders on my blanket. "-Henry David Thoreau The Maine Woods (1864)
- "Under our feet there opened a horrible well. My uncle was so delighted that he actually clapped his hands—as he saw how steep and sharp was the descent. "-Jules Verne Journey to the Center of the Earth (1872)
- "Everywhere we look we see brutality, stupidity, until it seems that there is nothing else to be seen but that—a descent into barbarism, everywhere, which we are unable to check. "-Doris May Lessing Prisons We Choose to Live Inside (1986)
Words nearby descent
DESCENT VS. DISSENT VS. DECENT
What’s the difference between descent, dissent, and decent?
Descent is a noun that means the act of moving downward (descending), a downward movement, or downward movement in general. Dissent can be a noun meaning disagreement, as in I voiced my dissent, or a verb meaning to disagree, as in The judge is expected to dissent. Decent is an adjective that means adequate or suitable, as in a decent meal, or good or respectable, as in a decent person.
Descent and dissent are pronounced exactly the same. Perhaps the best way to remember the difference between them is to think about what related words mean and how they’re spelled. Words related to descent involve movement and are spelled with sc, including descend, ascent, ascension, and transcend. Words related to dissent involve agreement or disagreement and end with -sent, including assent and consent.
Despite their similar spelling, descent and decent are pronounced differently. In descent, the emphasis is on the -scent part of the word, with the first part pronounced like dih. In decent, the emphasis is on the first part of the word, which is pronounced like dee.
So how can you remember which one gets the s? Dropping the s is the decent thing to do, but you should pick it back up for your descent. (And if you dissent, pick up two s’s).
Here’s an example of descent, dissent, and decent used correctly in a sentence.
Example: There was dissent among the climbers about when they should make the descent, but they decided to do it while the weather was still decent.
Quiz yourself on descent vs. dissent!
Should descent, dissent, or decent be used in the following sentence?
The plane’s rapid _____ was caused by a faulty engine.
How to use descent in a sentence
While the competitor goggles performed just fine, Tate and I both preferred the Julbos so much that we bickered at 12,850 feet over who would get to wear them on the descent.
The descent is a gentle one via the via the South Ridge and Canon Brook Trails, which afford ocean views much of the way.
If you’re in a neutral state of mind, you can recognize the descent into the conspiracy theories, and the inability to acknowledge the facts of the situation.“I think this is a wake-up call”: Seeing a familiar face in the Capitol riot|Luke Winkie|January 15, 2021|Vox
About three minutes after lifting off, it leveled off at an altitude of about 10,000 to 11,000 feet for almost a minute before a rapid descent to the water in just 14 seconds, according to Flightradar24’s tracking data.What to know about the missing Boeing 737 plane that disappeared over the Java Sea|Claire Zillman, reporter|January 10, 2021|Fortune
McClain’s time aboard the ISS spanned from December 2018 to June of 2019, meaning her ascent and descent were both aboard Russia’s Soyuz capsules, as astronauts have gotten to and from space since the Shuttle days.Astronaut Anne McClain on designing and piloting the next generation of spacecraft|Devin Coldewey|January 1, 2021|TechCrunch
The feisty airline is the brainchild of entrepreneur Tony Fernandes, a Malaysian of Indian descent who also is a British citizen.The Presumed Crash of AirAsia Flight QZ8501 Is Nothing Like MH370|Lennox Samuels|December 29, 2014|DAILY BEAST
But then the summit gives way to the other side of the hill, and a childlike glee arises from the whooooosh of the descent.
His sadness over her descent into shooting up after managing to stay clean for a period is palpable.
This descent and all of its trials serve as metaphors for the brutal task of breaking the chains of guilt, fear, and doubt.The Walking Dead’s Luke Skywalker: Rick Grimes Is the Perfect Modern-Day Mythical Hero|Regina Lizik|October 28, 2014|DAILY BEAST
Aristotle is not typically remembered as the father of naturalists, but Darwin acknowledged a line of intellectual descent.
We dismounted, and speedily found that MacRae hadn't exaggerated the evil qualities of that descent.
He made a violent assault against the nation of his enemies, and in the descent he destroyed the adversaries.
We followed the upland past the end of the Stone till we found a slope that didn't require wings for descent.
Massed on the plateau above the mule-path, the whole population of the village stood to watch them down the steep descent.Rosemary in Search of a Father|C. N. Williamson
But hail shall be in the descent of the forest, and the city shall be made very low.