Definition of descent in English:



  • 1[usually in singular] An act of moving downwards, dropping, or falling.

    ‘the plane had gone into a steep descent’
    • ‘Resist the pull of the gravity on the descent and force the weight to move slowly back to the start.’
    • ‘The descent and ascent should both be at the same moderate pace.’
    • ‘I knew I could get the better of him on the descent even though I fell a number of times.’
    • ‘Then began the slow cold descent into darkness.’
    • ‘He said the incident could have been quite serious, as the night turned cold and heavy rain began to fall during the descent.’
    • ‘Prior to the final touch down, the spacecraft shuts down the propulsion engine and enters into a free fall descent.’
    • ‘During descent, you should gently equalize your ears and mask.’
    • ‘It was while glancing back that he took a fall and twisted his ankle on the final descent and came back into the finishing field with bloodied knees.’
    • ‘The two climbers, then in their 20s, did reach the summit, but after a fall on the descent, Thomas suffered a severe leg injury.’
    • ‘Gunter is careful to control the descent on this movement so he doesn't overstretch his shoulders.’
    • ‘What I thought was a straightforward descent turned horrific.’
    • ‘The images sent back to Earth partially overlap, due to the probe's rotation during the descent and due to the overlap between the fields of view of the different cameras.’
    • ‘During the descent, four members of his group fell to their deaths.’
    • ‘The idea is to prevent my back from arching and my legs from dropping during the descent.’
    • ‘Carefully, she started a gradual, painstaking descent to the frothing ocean below.’
    • ‘After the steepest descent I have ever ridden to this day, it was a short ride up the valley to the lodge where hot dinner was waiting.’
    • ‘After a quick tour of the mine facilities, the party re-boarded the little train, sans locomotive, for the descent was to be made by gravity.’
    • ‘The descent was fast, steep, and playfully technical in parts.’
    • ‘By the time the steepest descent is over my arms are hurting, but we haven't stopped and it's not over yet.’
    • ‘Upon pulling them on, I started my slow descent down the stairs.’
    downward climb, descending
    going down, coming down
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1A downward slope.
      ‘a steep, badly eroded descent’
      • ‘The descent drops straight into the sump with no place to rest.’
      • ‘Arthur's Pass is 920 metres above sea level, and there is a steep descent to Otira in the west.’
      • ‘The snow-topped, ice clad giants offer refuge from the daily grind in the form of miles of skiable slopes and long descents.’
      • ‘Eventually with the sun fading and the wind rising we found a steep descent down to pale limestone and black rabbits, and back at the campsite lots more tents.’
      • ‘The descent is much steeper at only 20 km, with some fast bends at the top changing to tight hairpins at the bottom.’
      • ‘The descent was not steep at all and I could go down there as well as anyone.’
      • ‘From the steep descent he turned aside into the deer path by which he had come, and when he reached the beach he paused and turned, raising his eyes up the length of the waterfall to where he thought the rock and the pool might be.’
      • ‘From there, a steep descent drops to a high and rocky col, from where very rocky ground leads to the summit and some of the widest views I've seen for months.’
      • ‘Sheep grazed the slopes above them; the descent to the shore ended in a farmyard.’
      • ‘The showers before and during the race made the very steep descents a real challenge.’
      • ‘With the skill of a veteran mountaineer, he masterfully accomplishes this task while going down a steep descent.’
      • ‘The track rolled down a steep descent and then gathered itself again in tight knots and ruts which led us through a long, spreading puddle to an estate gate.’
      • ‘From there a steep descent north took us to the edge of another plantation where a well-used footpath dropped down through the trees to a broad track.’
      • ‘Anyone driving north on the N2 this week should keep their eyes peeled just before the steep descent to the old bridge.’
      • ‘We arrive at a steep descent and he suggests I engage Hill Descent Control, an electronic system that automatically controls the speed of the vehicle as it descends.’
      • ‘It is the steepest descent on the course, and runs for nearly 2 miles.’
      slope, incline, dip, drop, gradient, declivity, declination, slant, downslope, hill
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2A moral, social, or psychological decline.
      ‘the ancient empire's slow descent into barbarism’
      • ‘It is an overwhelming, confusing, meandering descent into seasonal decline.’
      • ‘However, the descent into savagery is opposed by many of the children, recognising it as a construct imposed from above by adults.’
      • ‘The outcome will be a sexual identity free-for-all, and a further descent into a moral vacuum.’
      • ‘The result has been an unintended descent into confusion.’
      • ‘But even they can't entirely salvage the mixture from a gradual descent into mediocrity.’
      • ‘This descent into enmity is not just one party's fault.’
      • ‘How can the working class, faced with this crisis, defend its social and democratic rights and prevent a descent into war and barbarism?’
      • ‘In the process he drove himself to exhaustion, and began a tragic descent into paranoia and self-destruction.’
      • ‘Despite valiant efforts from the cast, the two hours that follow it prove to be nothing more than a descent into the quicksand of mediocrity.’
      • ‘Miranda's claims of innocence are seen by her friends, colleagues and former patients as the beginnings of a deep descent into madness.’
      • ‘The results are a partial empirical accounting of the ideological developments accompanying the descent into civil war.’
      • ‘But the sadder scenes were the ones where they shut him in front of a large screen and played him highlights of his career, and excerpts of news footage chronicling the descent into tragedy.’
      • ‘The structural underfunding which caused the gradual descent into debt has not been addressed, although clearly the hope is that there will be some future rectification.’
      • ‘The absence of any semblance of discipline is to blame for this descent into moral turpitude.’
      • ‘It is a small effort worth making if we want to avoid a descent into widespread anarchy, terrorism, pandemics of global disease, and other avoidable calamities.’
      • ‘It is slightly worrying that I should become obsessed with this again and I think it may signal a descent into nervous break-down.’
      • ‘The more I think about this, and as I write it, it rather does seem less a quirky singularity, and more of an onrushing descent into a foggy loopiness.’
      • ‘The only alternative to denying responsibility appears to be a complete loss of control - a descent into chaos.’
      • ‘It reminded me of the descent into cynicism about politics that I still haven't completely shaken.’
      • ‘But wait - the nightmarish descent into the blind refusal of personal responsibility continues apace.’
      degeneration, degeneracy, deterioration, decline, sinking, slide, fall, drop, regression, retrogression, debasement, degradation, comedown
      View synonyms
  • 2[mass noun] The origin or background of a person in terms of family or nationality.

    ‘the settlers were of Cornish descent’
    • ‘Indeed, common place of origin is often connected with genos, one's origins by common descent and parentage.’
    • ‘They possessed significantly more knowledge of Irish politics and history than those claiming no Irish descent.’
    • ‘Clans are created through common descent from a shared male ancestor.’
    • ‘Rather, we can entertain common descent from multiple ancestors.’
    • ‘People of African American descent often face challenges when they try to trace their ancestors.’
    • ‘A few girls of African American descent were sitting on the front porch.’
    • ‘The term ‘dynasty’ refers to a succession of kings belonging to one line of family descent.’
    • ‘In the United States, however, only people of Asian Indian descent have retained their unique cultural dress.’
    • ‘About 40 % can trace an Italian descent, although Spain is considered the mother country.’
    • ‘These entries suggest that people of African origins or descent, although very much a minority, were not unusual in sixteenth-century London.’
    • ‘In these societies, descent is traced through the female side of the family.’
    • ‘His mother was of Huguenot descent; his father died six months after his birth.’
    • ‘Partly Spanish by ancestry, he claimed descent on his father's side from the Scottish monarchy.’
    • ‘Today in the United States alone, more than 40 million Americans claim some Irish descent.’
    • ‘This story celebrates the families of African descent in North America and the transitions of children spending summers with their elders.’
    • ‘Many families of Luxembourger descent today also include traditions from the more mainstream Anglo- and German-American cultures.’
    • ‘I had a school friend whose family traced their descent and their identity even further, back to William the Conqueror.’
    • ‘Umbilical hernias occur more often in premature infants and those of African American descent.’
    • ‘Many others throughout the kingdom assert patrilineal descent from eponymous ancestors from ancient Arab tribes.’
    • ‘Their rulers claimed descent from a common ancestor.’
    ancestry, parentage, ancestors, family
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1The transmission of qualities, property, or privileges by inheritance.
      • ‘Thus, at common law, an alien can acquire or take real or personal property under a will, and may acquire or take personal property by descent.’
      • ‘The civil status of slaves in Tennessee, as well as in other states in which slavery existed, was such as to disable them from inheriting or transmitting property by descent.’
      • ‘An estate is either ancestral or nonancestral; or, as this court says, there are two modes of acquiring title to property, one by descent or inheritance and the other by purchase or by the act or agreement of the parties.’
      inheritance, passing down, passing on, succession
      View synonyms
  • 3A sudden violent attack.

    ‘a descent on the Channel ports’
    • ‘A sudden descent by a Roumanian army into Transylvania on August 30th was hailed as the harbinger of further successes.’
    • ‘Any sort of significant expedition meant risking defeat in the field, or a sudden descent on Damietta and loss of the city.’
    • ‘He first provided against a sudden descent upon the city by rebuilding the walls of Rome, which remain to this day and are known as the walls of Aurelian.’
    • ‘We hear of ambushes, sudden descents on armies still in marching column, and enemies taken by surprise as a result of sudden forced marches, stealthy changes of position, deceptive signals, and deliberate misinformation.’
    attack, assault, raid, onslaught, charge, thrust, push, drive, incursion, foray, sortie, sally, storming, assailing
    View synonyms
    1. 3.1An unexpected visit.
      ‘his descents on the manager of any shop he took a fancy to visit’
      • ‘A section of patrolmen made a sudden and unexpected descent upon an alleged gambling hell.’


Middle English: from Old French descente, from descendre to descend (see descend).