Definition of descend in English:



[no object]
  • 1Move or fall downwards.

    ‘the aircraft began to descend’
    • ‘Huge drops of falling rain descended from the heavy clouds above.’
    • ‘The aircraft continued at altitude for two minutes and then descended rapidly.’
    • ‘They all board the elevator and the door shuts as they begin descending.’
    • ‘As we began descending, he reminded me to check my altitude and the terrain.’
    • ‘Thunder, lightning, and buckets upon buckets of rain descended on the city.’
    • ‘The machine whirred to life and slowly began descending.’
    • ‘I felt colder and colder as I descended and was beginning to shiver uncontrollably midway down the mountain.’
    • ‘We went up for a second and began descending slowly.’
    • ‘It began descending at full throttle and crashed one mile from the point of its liftoff.’
    • ‘Caroline leapt out of the van as heavy rain began to descend.’
    • ‘In moments I descend to depths I would have assumed impossible without scuba gear.’
    • ‘They began descending, eventually touching back down on the roof.’
    • ‘He watched as it began descending and landed miles away from where they stood.’
    • ‘The elevator begins descending, and as daylight disappears, all is silent and darkness envelops us.’
    • ‘As we began descending from mountains into the desert, I saw agaves, cacti, and ocotillo thriving on the dry, rugged slopes.’
    • ‘Doors slid silently closed behind him and he began to descend.’
    • ‘We finally got over the dune and we began descending.’
    • ‘The black cloud descended lower over them as the car jolted over the pothole strewn country lane through the hills.’
    • ‘Alas this was not to be as a deluge of rain descended and the dancing had to be abandoned.’
    go down, come down
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 (of a mammal's testes) pass from the abdominal cavity into the scrotum.
  • 2(of a road, path, or flight of steps) slope or lead downwards.

    ‘a side road descended into the forest’
    with object ‘a flight of stairs descended a steep slope’
    • ‘Angel walked the hallways without trouble until she turned at the right hallway and saw several flights of steps descending before her.’
    • ‘The docks are high over the black water, which slams against the retaining walls; stone steps descend, made slippery by seaweed.’
    • ‘Slowly, strained, the grate lifted and hung twenty feet above the opening, revealing a flight of stairs that descended downwards.’
    • ‘A path descends north from this bealach and snakes over rough ground to a rocky basin, passing between two small lochans.’
    • ‘For traffic driving east, the road descends down a gradient of 0.023 through a wooded area with trees overhanging the road on both sides.’
    • ‘The path descended, but the light was definitely growing brighter.’
    • ‘On entering you are confronted by the corrugated stone underside of the ascending flight, the inverse of the other flight descending in front of you.’
    • ‘Broad flights of steps descended directly into the azure water.’
    • ‘If you choose to traverse across the hole, the original descent is marked by three prominent fallen stalagmites in front of you, with a slope descending from them.’
    • ‘She pushed a button, and a large flight of stairs descended from the ship to the ground.’
    • ‘A quarter of a mile further on, at the eastern limb of the bay, the path descended steeply, zig-zagging across the cliff face to a stretch of beach to the east of Holland Point.’
    • ‘From the lay-by, the path descends slightly to a gate.’
    • ‘From the summit, the path descends alongside the wall until a narrow rocky cleft is reached.’
    • ‘The road descended, and at the foot of the hill I entered the village.’
    • ‘The road descended through weedy habitat full of sparrows and Red-winged Blackbirds.’
    slope, dip, slant, decline, go down, sink, fall away
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1with object Move down (a slope or stairs)
      ‘the vehicle descended a ramp’
      • ‘He descended a ladder and went down through a trapdoor to the 5th floor.’
      • ‘As I descended the stairs, I was greeted by a room full of people cheering and singing Happy Birthday.’
      • ‘Descending the steps, she looked upwards at the planet's golden sun.’
      • ‘The ceremonial Indonesian procession slowly descended the stairs onto the stage.’
      • ‘A young woman descends the stairs from a low, curtained gallery to hand a sheet of music to a cellist waiting downstairs.’
      • ‘Lee turned around after descending the ladder, and her breath was taken away.’
      • ‘She took a deep breath to compose herself and then descended the spiral staircase.’
      • ‘The whole party turns to look at the two gracefully descending the stairs.’
      • ‘Lise was descending the steps, the look on her face disapproving as usual.’
      • ‘The air was crisp and, descending the stairs, I fancied that I could taste the lack of oxygen.’
      • ‘In another case, a judge dismissed a claim for negligence where a 12-year-old pupil broke her ankle when descending a staircase.’
      • ‘From the amount of shouting, I would be surprised if anyone in the neighbouring rooms was still asleep, and finally he relented and descended the stairs.’
      • ‘Quick as I could, I shut the window, exited the bathroom, descended the stairs and went into the kitchen, where both girls were staring out of the window.’
      • ‘He came upstairs to get me, and as we descended the stairs, he asked if I wanted to drive.’
      • ‘John Henry is speaking to an acquaintance in the lobby and a beautiful young woman, followed closely behind by a companion, is descending the stairs.’
      • ‘They have considerable difficulty ascending or descending stairs, and so you may find them in elevators.’
      • ‘Looking around I reclaimed my fire axe and slowly descended the stairs inside the building.’
      • ‘He slowly descended the stairs with a grim look on his face.’
      • ‘The problem presents as anterior knee pain, which is worse after prolonged sitting with the knee flexed, or on climbing or descending stairs or slopes.’
      • ‘Since many elderly patients are unable to walk, the robust young lad carried them on his back when ascending or descending stairs for daily treatment.’
      climb down, go down, come down, move down, pass down, walk down
      View synonyms
    2. 2.2 Move down a scale of quality.
      ‘three hotels were granted the prestigious five-star status, whilst others descended in quality or maintained their ranking’
      • ‘This is where operators prioritise in descending order the exchanges where they want a presence.’
      • ‘According to what we understand about the effects of priming, the opposite would be predicted - lower thresholds derived from the descending than the ascending order.’
      • ‘This will either sort the list ascending or descending.’
      • ‘In descending order the top five nationalities are Samoa, Tonga, China, Thailand, and Great Britain.’
      • ‘With only 10 slots, the shuffled deck consists of 20 groups of cards that alternate between ascending and descending card orders.’
      • ‘You can also choose to display from 10 to 100 items per page, in descending or ascending order.’
      • ‘You can then decide on posting order: whether alphabetically or by date, ascending or descending.’
      • ‘Such shifts have been described for both response rates and threshold determinations when both ascending and descending orders of current or frequency values are presented.’
    3. 2.3Music (of sound) become lower in pitch.
      ‘the chords descended in spectacular style from the upper register to the lower’
      • ‘The implied connection between ‘cadence’ and falling is most explicitly realized in music where a melodic line descends conclusively to the modal final or tonal tonic.’
      • ‘The second half of the chorus is an admission of defeat, which the music mirrors in a familiar descending chord pattern.’
      • ‘It begins with a motif comprised of violent, mostly descending chords whose eerie, threatening character sends a chill through the listener.’
      • ‘By the end of ‘Cromosomi’, with its tricky harmonic sequence that descends in semitones, he had the audience in the palm of his hand.’
      • ‘The first descending row of chords is just magic, raising the little hairs on the back of a listener's neck.’
    4. 2.4descend to Act in a shameful way that is far below one's usual standards.
      ‘he was scrupulous in refusing to descend to misrepresentation’
      • ‘Politics now dominates - and the level of civility descends to new lows.’
      • ‘You say cable news squanders its resources by descending to tabloid sensationalism, personality cult shows and aping talk radio with high-testosterone shout shows.’
      • ‘Sometimes the physical instincts are elevated to a spiritual level and often the spiritual being descends to a baser life.’
      • ‘Anyone who descends to such cheap jibes with nothing more substantial to say is just making himself ridiculous.’
      • ‘She never descended to self-pity but preserved in herself a sense of identity and personal dignity that made her so valuable to any whom she befriended.’
      condescend, stoop, lower oneself, abase oneself, humble oneself, demean oneself, debase oneself, deign
      View synonyms
    5. 2.5descend into (of a situation or group of people) reach (an undesirable state)
      ‘the army had descended into chaos’
      • ‘What Shakespeare actually shows is an England in which the legal framework gradually descends into anarchy.’
      • ‘I recognise that overall we must obey those laws or descend into anarchy.’
      • ‘Almost every important issue descends into a farcical search for hidden agendas - which can be infuriating for those of us who want to debate the issue on its own terms.’
      • ‘This story descended into farce some time ago, but it reached a new low yesterday.’
      • ‘Indeed the latest attacks, for all their threat of danger, soon descended into farce.’
      • ‘Medieval parties to celebrate saints' days would often descend into chaos or a protest.’
      • ‘Many of the countries I visited soon descended into the most terrible chaos.’
      • ‘However the situation soon descends into something more sinister.’
      • ‘From this flawed start the report descends into farce.’
      • ‘In this situation, the system can handle substantial variability without descending into crisis.’
      • ‘The situation has now descended into farce as the row rumbles on.’
      • ‘The game almost descended into farce with the sleet making any meaningful rugby impossible.’
      • ‘We must not descend to the depth of lawlessness for which the criminal was sentenced.’
      • ‘After that it descends into something of a mess.’
      • ‘If we are not to descend into anarchy, we must live under government.’
      • ‘The traffic descends into chaos for thirty minutes.’
      • ‘In other words, whichever route one takes in this intellectual landscape, it descends into the same perdition.’
      • ‘With the onset of the reforms, the power situation in the State descended into chaos.’
      • ‘The country is holding together so far, but could easily again descend into chaos.’
      • ‘The council's campaign quickly descended into farce.’
      degenerate, deteriorate, decline, sink, slide, fall, drop
      View synonyms
  • 3descend on/uponMake a sudden attack on.

    ‘the militia descended on Rye’
    • ‘As the crooks descend upon the money, the lights in the vault suddenly go out.’
    • ‘The staff watched in horror from their viewport as the first wave of menacing assault wings descended on the dormant federation fleet.’
    • ‘In Chicago alone, for example, 55 hate crimes were reported in which the attacks were mentioned and at least once an angry mob descended on a mosque.’
    • ‘In the single worst incident, attackers descended on the village.’
    • ‘Twenty-nine years ago, its tanks and troops stormed into the country, fighting in the mountains and descending on the capital to restore order to a city ravaged by civil war.’
    • ‘On 20 May 1941, German parachutists and assault gliders descended upon Crete.’
    • ‘When we began to make speeches the riot police descended on us and started attacking people, throwing tear gas everywhere.’
    • ‘Suddenly a band of yelping Indians would descend upon the wagon train and kill every man, woman and child and brutally mutilate some through scalping.’
    • ‘We should not be like a mob descending on the village and leave like locusts.’
    • ‘A group of soldiers had already descended upon the police station the day before the assault and aggressively demanded his release.’
    • ‘I knew that they were far stronger than I was, and that if I did not do something, the other attackers would descend upon me in a moment.’
    • ‘All of a sudden, the powers that be descended upon them.’
    • ‘Teenagers descended on three roads in Bocking, affecting at least six cars in the attack at about 10 pm on Sunday night.’
    • ‘The attackers, 20-30, in number mercilessly descended upon him, armed with snooker cues and bats, beating him to the ground while unconscious.’
    • ‘A disagreement between four boys was all it took to provoke the gang into descending on the area and attacking people at random, the court heard.’
    • ‘The pirates seize the vessel and use it to attack a shoreside target, descending upon their target from the air.’
    • ‘She could hear rage in the attacker's breathing as he descended upon her.’
    • ‘In a second government-sanctioned attack, 1,000 soldiers descended on the compound.’
    • ‘He thinks it is only a matter of time before an invasion force descends upon this island nation in an attempt to force a regime change.’
    attack, make a raid on, assault, set upon, descend on, swoop on, harass, harry, blitz, make inroads on, assail, storm, rush, charge
    View synonyms
    1. 3.1descend on/upon Make an unexpected visit to.
      ‘groups of visiting supporters descended on a local pub’
      • ‘But this figure is set to be dwarfed by the crowds expected to descend on the heritage railway once the Harry Potter film is released.’
      • ‘But in March, when his trial began, protests suddenly escalated, with hundreds of people descending on the small local town to mount a demonstration.’
      • ‘I spent the evening half-expecting a horde of physicians to descend on me, but Mai was the only one who visited me.’
      • ‘Eight friends came to visit and descended on my living room.’
      • ‘He was visiting his children when federal agents descended upon his ex-wife's house and took him away in handcuffs.’
      • ‘The two women from a development donor agency in the big city descended upon the ‘Developing’ women in the little village unannounced.’
      • ‘What is it about this time of the year that encourages normally passive shoppers, like husbands and brothers, suddenly to descend on the shops in search of all kinds of gifts?’
      • ‘One week, the Prime Minister descends on the town to visit the office of a training company.’
      come in force, arrive in hordes, attack, assail, assault, storm, invade, pounce on, raid, swoop on, charge
      View synonyms
    2. 3.2 (of a feeling) develop suddenly and affect a place or person.
      ‘an air of gloom descended on Labour Party headquarters’
      • ‘Head lowered, she raised her arms, and the gloom descended to envelope us, as if she had pulled it down as a comforting blanket.’
      • ‘My depression descends on me really suddenly, and… when I am there I can't… move… within it.’
      • ‘I'm not sure if it was because of the laughing or because of the sudden depression that descended upon me.’
      • ‘A thick tension descended on them suddenly as their eyes locked.’
      • ‘A sudden aura of seriousness descended upon us and we returned our sober attention to the doctor.’
    3. 3.3 (of night or darkness) begin to occur.
      ‘as the winter darkness descended, the fighting ceased’
      • ‘By the time everyone was done, darkness had descended.’
      • ‘Darkness descended all to quickly upon the three riders in their silent but desperate flight.’
      • ‘She looked around fearfully and shivered slightly as she entered, the cool darkness descending ominously upon her.’
      • ‘At that moment a sudden darkness descended upon the house.’
      • ‘As darkness descends, standing there looking over us, the tree takes on an almost human demeanour, especially when it is lit by a rising full moon.’
      • ‘An hour later, as darkness was slowly descending on this warm provincial town, we started the recording.’
      • ‘It's all picture perfect, even if the night does descend rather early and hangs on for hours on end.’
      • ‘However as things stand right now, darkness is descending, work is finished for the day, and no planting has yet taken place.’
      • ‘And then, as darkness descended, two sets of supporters assumed position.’
      • ‘Finally, darkness descended and we - the younger members - met in front of Ed's house as planned.’
      • ‘By 6pm each evening, the village descends into complete darkness.’
      • ‘During autumn and winter, darkness descends at about 4pm and the area dies once children have left the two local schools.’
      • ‘Darkness was beginning to descend and it was time for the happy couple to make the long journey home again where Mick's plan was to have a few pints in his local before closing time.’
      • ‘By the time they had finished, darkness had descended completely outside.’
      • ‘It was now a matter of time before the moonless darkness of night descended.’
      • ‘When the air became chilly and darkness descended, they lit lanterns and retired to a rustic shelter.’
      • ‘Night was quickly descending, and despite the fact that the teens had slept late into the day, their actions since awakening had tired them out considerably.’
      • ‘By now it was nearly 4pm and darkness was descending fast.’
      • ‘When darkness descended we hurriedly cleared the kitchen table in order to commence our fretwork.’
      • ‘Candles and torches were brought out as darkness descended over Malmesbury.’
  • 4be descended fromBe a blood relative of (a specified ancestor)

    ‘John Dalrymple was descended from an ancient Ayrshire family’
    • ‘The mouse and human genomes descended from a common ancestor some 75 million years ago.’
    • ‘After 16 years of trawling through documents, the genealogist unearthed proof that Laurence was descended from the female side of the clan.’
    • ‘Perhaps also the evolutionists could explain their assumption that man is descended from apes.’
    • ‘Their father was descended from three generations of sea captains.’
    • ‘The Benn boys were descended from politicians on both sides of the family.’
    • ‘His mother was of Scots extraction and his father was descended from Belgian bourgeoisie.’
    • ‘Too many people think evolution is the idea that people are descended from apes.’
    • ‘Through their oral tradition, they have maintained that they were descended from earlier Jews.’
    • ‘When I realised that I was descended from this man, I felt intense sadness, anger and shame.’
    • ‘As I am putting on my coat she tells me about an American geneticist who has discovered that everyone in the world is descended from just seven women.’
    • ‘White hart deer graze the lawns, said to be descended from two white harts given by Elizabeth 1 to her god-child.’
    • ‘Life on Earth looks as if it's descended from a common ancestor.’
    • ‘Although he is descended from Russian aristocracy, he was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth.’
    • ‘The island's population - made up of Chinese, Malays and Europeans - is descended from indentured labour brought in to work the deposits of phosphate of lime discovered in 1887.’
    • ‘This character is common to all animals as the result of their being descended from a common multicellular ancestor that also possessed this character.’
    • ‘Legend says he was descended from one of the Magi who visited the baby Jesus and was both priest and king.’
    • ‘In 1940 the island had a population of just over 1,000 people, the vast majority of whom were descended from freedmen who had acquired the land after the civil war.’
    • ‘It will give some clarity to one's understanding of whom one is descended from.’
    • ‘They were descended from a family which had once enjoyed respect and honour.’
    • ‘The findings show that more than 95 percent of dogs in this group were descended from three original female ancestors.’
    be a descendant of, originate from, issue from, spring from, have as an ancestor, derive from
    View synonyms
    1. 4.1 (of an asset) pass by inheritance, typically from parent to child.
      ‘his lands descended to his eldest son’
      • ‘He remarried, and after his own death in 1556, his property descended to his son William.’
      • ‘In accordance with Colonel Brooke's will, her property descended to her daughter, whose husband thus became possessed of a respectable income’
      • ‘Subject to her right of dower, the estate descended to his two sons.’
      • ‘He had three wives and the estate descended to the son of his third wife.’
      • ‘Heathcliff dies intestate, the property descends - as it should - to the young lovers, and the two great houses revert to their dynastic owners.’
      be handed down, be passed down, pass by heredity, be transferred by inheritance
      View synonyms


Middle English: from Old French descendre, from Latin descendere, from de- ‘down’ + scandere ‘to climb’.