Definition of degrade in US English:



[with object]
  • 1Treat or regard (someone) with contempt or disrespect.

    ‘she thought that many supposedly erotic pictures degraded women’
    • ‘Besides the racial slur, it degrades the character of the mother.’
    • ‘The Peer said: ‘We are degraded by what is being done in our name.’’
    • ‘You sound like an intelligent woman, however, your use of foul language degrades you and anyone else who uses it.’
    • ‘One of the main reasons I believe its illegal is because many people see it as a very wrong thing to do, it degrades women and turns them into objects.’
    • ‘He is just offended by an incongruous adaptation, which, in his opinion, undermines his own concept by degrading his heroine.’
    • ‘That is because poverty degrades individuals and robs them of dignity and worth.’
    • ‘And second, we are killing, we are degrading our heroes, and that is a mistake.’
    • ‘‘I felt degraded by being sacked,’ he later explained.’
    • ‘We also believe that practically any country that degrades women or any country that cuts them off from the vital life of the country is making a very big mistake.’
    • ‘Imperialism, which has always been chummy with and supportive of its fascist kin, will play its historical role in degrading the people, dividing the society, and destroying the nation.’
    • ‘They degrade members of our community who provide us with services.’
    • ‘I'm not into computer games, or that teacher, or talking about teachers, or degrading women.’
    • ‘Usually she refuses to think in terms of male and female, saying, for instance, ‘pornography degrades men just as much as it does women’.’
    • ‘Working for a low minimum wage should not even be considered ‘honest work’ because the experience degrades you.’
    • ‘These are really two entirely different problems: lack of encouragement is not the same as someone degrading you as a person or telling you your project will never work.’
    • ‘Our Dace Hall music culture, which is saluted by the youth, is one that frequently degrades women in its lyrics as well.’
    • ‘And our soldiers are degraded and insulted on their own soil.’
    • ‘And both are scared of reality TV - ostensibly because it degrades people, but actually because it shoves real, imperfect people in the faces of hoity-toity reactionary and liberal alike.’
    • ‘The squandering of funds and reported misuse of the resources have already degraded the personality of the hero that the movie wants to depict.’
    • ‘A criminal might deserve to be tortured; we refuse to torture him nonetheless, because to do so degrades us.’
    humiliated, demeaned, debased, cheapened, cheap, ashamed, abased
    demean, debase, cheapen, devalue, prostitute, lower the status of, reduce, shame, humiliate, bring shame to, humble, mortify, abase, disgrace, dishonour
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    1. 1.1 Lower the character or quality of.
      ‘repeaters clean up and amplify the degraded signal’
      • ‘Decades of harmful land use practices have degraded water quality in much of the species' historic habitat, leaving only a few remnant populations.’
      • ‘Able to survive extremely degraded water quality, they can live in areas where other fish have been pushed out by pollution.’
      • ‘Such information is transformed to the brain cells and keeps the nervous centralis highly excited, thus degrading the quality of sleep.’
      • ‘The good news is that there is a similar lag when quality is degraded.’
      • ‘And the more you did, the less attention you could give to each, so the quality went down, so the nett result was very, very degraded quality in education.’
      • ‘And if we make it so tough that quality of life is degraded, we're not going to see those recruitments meeting the goal.’
      • ‘What part did public policy actually play in degrading the quality of life in these places below accepted standards of human health and decency?’
      • ‘Soil and water quality have been seriously degraded.’
      • ‘This causes a discontinuity that degrades the audio quality.’
      • ‘While the substance that degrades or lowers the quality of food is an adulterant.’
      • ‘This is because stores often hook up many TVs to one video source, degrading image quality across all the screens.’
      • ‘Through the innumerable small acts of everyday life, we slowly but steadily degrade the quality of the earth's air, water, soil and diversity of species.’
      • ‘They can degrade air quality far from their sources.’
      • ‘Sprouting, which may appear as a swelling from the shoot at the germ portion of the grain, degrades wheat quality.’
      • ‘Usually, the quality of knowledge is degraded.’
      • ‘A recent article reported that lagoons and sprayfields for animal waste near streams and watercourses may be significantly degrading water quality and endangering human health.’
      • ‘In addition to harming the genetic composition of wild salmon, the conservationist maintains that hatcheries can degrade stream water quality and spread disease.’
      • ‘Moreover, the presence of large numbers of tourists degrades the quality of the wilderness experience for everyone.’
      • ‘The all-digital DVI stream avoids any conversion to analog, which can degrade the signal.’
      • ‘In the future, we'll use well water so as not to degrade the quality of mountain water products.’
      degenerate, corrupt, corrupted, depraved, perverted, decadent, dissolute, dissipated, debauched, immoral, base, sordid
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    2. 1.2archaic Reduce (someone) to a lower rank, especially as a punishment.
      ‘he was degraded from his high estate’
      • ‘It degrades from the equal rank of Citizens all those whose opinions in Religion do not bend to those of the Legislative authority.’
      • ‘He was degraded from his orders, and being even in danger of assassination, took refuge with Douglas of Longniddry, and there remained until the end of 1545’
      • ‘He was degraded from his dukedom in 1399, and was beheaded in January of the following year for conspiring against Henry IV.’
      • ‘He was degraded from the grandeeship and exiled to the Philippines.’
  • 2Break down or deteriorate chemically.

    ‘the bacteria will degrade hydrocarbons’
    no object ‘when exposed to light the materials will degrade’
    • ‘High levels of oxidants cause tissue injury by peroxidizing membrane lipids, degrading proteins, and oxidizing DNA.’
    • ‘They showed that quinotoxine could be degraded to a compound called homomeroquinene, and then they demonstrated the reverse synthesis of homomeroquinene to quinotoxine.’
    • ‘These high concentrations can overload the ability of the soil to adsorb and degrade herbicides.’
    • ‘Strong alkaline cleaners can remove or degrade the fluoro-polymers (which are not bonded to the concrete).’
    • ‘The wild type molecule at the cell surface cycles from the membrane to sacs within the cell interior called endocytic vesicles where it may be degraded.’
    • ‘Soy oil polymers must be heated to over 400°C before they degrade, making them more thermally stable than polyethylene or polystyrene.’
    • ‘Some materials are better degraded under anaerobic conditions than under aerobic conditions.’
    • ‘Even those single molecules must be further degraded by sunlight or slow oxidative breakdown before their constituents can be recycled into the building blocks of life.’
    • ‘Again like all proteins in the body, collagen has a finite life span after which it is degraded to the constituent amino acids and replaced by new fibres.’
    • ‘Over time, however, it oxidizes and chemically degrades to form alcohols, ketones, aldehydes, acids and esters.’
    • ‘Think about how plastic and rubber (made from hydrocarbons) degrade under exposure to sunlight.’
    • ‘Diamonds, symbols of eternity, are not forever - they will eventually degrade to worthless graphite.’
    • ‘Proleases are enzymes that have the capacity to hydrolyze peptide bonds and degrade other proteins.’
    • ‘If the temperature is too high, the polymer can be degraded.’
    • ‘This would mean that the decaying matter was buried (most likely under water) before it could be completely degraded to carbon dioxide and water.’
    • ‘Depilatories are put on skin to chemically degrade body hair.’
    • ‘This means that telomer alcohols are unlikely to degrade to carboxylic acids in city air.’
    • ‘Because PVC is degraded by light, it requires a minimum of 12 inches of clean soil cover placed over the liner to function as designed.’
    • ‘It can only be removed using a paint stripper which degrades the polymer.’
    • ‘Soon, another graduate student there will work with Samac on expressing a new gene so that plants can degrade enough atrazine to be useful in cleaning up contaminated soil and water.’
    break down, deteriorate, degenerate, decay, atrophy
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    1. 2.1Physics Reduce (energy) to a less readily convertible form.
      • ‘Energy is always degraded to a less useful form.’
      • ‘However, if I remember correctly all energy eventually degrades to heat energy, right?’
      • ‘Heat death will occur when all the energy of the cosmos has been degraded to random heat energy, with random motions of molecules and uniform low-level temperatures.’
      • ‘On an orbiting satellite, energetic particle exposure degrades the efficiency of the solar-cell panels used to provide operating power.’
      • ‘All of this energy eventually degrades to heat and has to be either stored in the soil beneath the cities, radiated away, or convected away.’
    2. 2.2Geology Wear down (rock) and cause it to disintegrate.
      • ‘Three other profiles, measured across the portion of the scarp degraded by a landslide, also share distinctive features.’
      • ‘We have seen no evidence that this degraded fault-line scarp is Holocene active.’
      • ‘While stabilized and vegetated, the dune fields are often degraded, since in some cases it has been many thousands of years since they were last active.’
      • ‘Under the assumption that landforms unaffected by drainage channels are degraded according to the linear diffusion equation, a procedure is developed to invert a scarp profile to find its ‘diffusion age.’’
      • ‘As such, some peatlands are relict landforms, no longer actively accumulating peat, while other peatlands may even be slowly degrading, some even back to their mineral wetland origins.’


Late Middle English: from Old French degrader, from ecclesiastical Latin degradare, from de- ‘down, away from’ + Latin gradus ‘step or grade’.