From Middle English condescenden, from Old French condescendre, from Late Latin condēscendere (to let one's self down, stoop, condescend), from Latin con- (together) + dēscendere, present active infinitive of dēscendō (I come down); see descend.



condescend (third-person singular simple present condescends, present participle condescending, simple past and past participle condescended)

  1. (intransitive) To come down from one's superior position; to deign (to do something).
  2. (intransitive) To treat (someone) as though inferior; to be patronizing (toward someone); to talk down (to someone).
  3. (transitive, rare, possibly nonstandard) To treat (someone) as though inferior; to be patronizing toward (someone); to talk down to (someone).
    • 2007, Damian Westfall, Bennett's Cow-Eyed Girl, →ISBN:
      “I didn't mean to condescend you, Mr. Shreck.”
    • 2010, Jaron Lee Knuth, Demigod, →ISBN:
      “I'm not trying to condescend you, Ben.”
    • 2014, Greg Kalleres, Honky, page 31:
      THOMAS. [...] Does my anger deserve your condescension?
      ANDIE. I wasn't condescending you; I was just asking.
      THOMAS. No. You said “angry black man.” Like my anger only exists in a stereotype. That's condescending.
  4. (intransitive, obsolete) To consent, agree.
  5. (intransitive, obsolete) To come down.

Usage notesEdit

  • "Condescend" is a catenative verb that takes the to infinitive. See Appendix:English catenative verbs
  • In sense “to talk down”, the derived participial adjective condescending (and corresponding adverb condescendingly) are more common than the verb itself.
  • In older usage, "condescend" could be used non-pejoratively (in a sense similar to that of treating someone as inferior) to describe the action of those who socialized in a friendly way with their social inferiors. Now that the concept of social inferiors has largely fallen out of currency, so has this non-pejorative sense. Thus, in w:Pride_and_Prejudice, a character could say of another, "I need not say you will be delighted with her. She is all affability and condescension.”


Related termsEdit


Further readingEdit