From Latin dēgenerātus, perfect passive participle of dēgenerō (“to be inferior to one's ancestors, to become unlike one's race or kind, fall from ancestral quality”), from dēgener (“inferior to one’s predecessors”), from dē- (“off, away from”) + genus (“birth, descent”); see genus.
used of physical as well as moral qualities
- (of qualities) Having deteriorated, degraded or fallen from normal, coherent, balanced and desirable to undesirable and typically abnormal.
- 1591, Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part 3:
- faint-hearted and degenerate king
- (Can we date this quote?) Jonathan Swift
- degenerate from their ancient blood
- 2013 March 1, Harold J. Morowitz, “The Smallest Cell”, in American Scientist, volume 101, number 2, page 83:
- It is likely that the long evolutionary trajectory of Mycoplasma went from a reductive autotroph to oxidative heterotroph to a cell-wall–defective degenerate parasite. This evolutionary trajectory assumes the simplicity to complexity route of biogenesis, a point of view that is not universally accepted.
- (of a human or system) Having lost good or desirable qualities.
- (of an encoding or function) Having multiple domain elements correspond to one element of the range.
- (mathematics) A degenerate case is a limiting case in which a class of object changes its nature so as to belong to another, usually simpler, class.
- (physics) Having the same quantum energy level.
- (physics) degenerate matter
degenerate (plural degenerates)
- One who is degenerate, who has fallen from previous stature; an immoral person.
- In the cult of degenerates, acts of decency, kindness and modesty could be seen as acts of apostasy.
- (intransitive) To lose good or desirable qualities.
- His condition continued to degenerate even after admission to hospital.
- 1870, Shirley Hibberd, Rustic Adornments for Homes of Taste (page 170)
- Another bird quickly learned to imitate the song of a canary that was mated with it, but as the parrakeet improved in the performance the canary degenerated, and came at last to mingle the other bird's harsh chitterings with its own proper music.
- (transitive) To cause to lose good or desirable qualities.
- degenerate in Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913.
- degenerate in The Century Dictionary, New York, N.Y.: The Century Co., 1911.
- plural of