degrade

To degrade means to reduce the worth of something, as when smoke and pollution degrade the environment. The word can also mean to disrespect or insult: thoughtless comments can degrade a person.

If you whistle at a passing woman, you're being disrespectful — your behavior degrades women. Degrade is often used to mean to insult someone because of their gender or race. Degrade also means to break down. Old paper or photographs can degrade when left in the light — their material breaks down so that they crumble at a touch.

Definitions of degrade
  1. verb
    reduce in worth or character, usually verbally
    synonyms: demean, disgrace, put down, take down
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    types:
    reduce
    lower in grade or rank or force somebody into an undignified situation
    dehumanise, dehumanize
    deprive of human qualities
    type of:
    abase, chagrin, humble, humiliate, mortify
    cause to feel shame; hurt the pride of
  2. verb
    lower the grade of something; reduce its worth
    synonyms: cheapen
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    types:
    devaluate, devalue
    remove the value from; deprive of its value
    demonetise, demonetize
    deprive of value for payment
    type of:
    aggravate, exacerbate, exasperate, worsen
    make worse
  3. verb
    reduce the level of land, as by erosion
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    Antonyms:
    aggrade
    build up to a level by depositing sediment
  4. verb
    undergo decay or decomposition
    synonyms: decay
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    types:
    show 8 types...
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    decompose, molder, moulder, rot
    break down
    go bad, spoil
    become unfit for consumption or use
    fester, putrefy
    become putrid; decay with an offensive smell
    deliquesce
    melt away in the process of decay
    biodegrade
    break down naturally through the action of biological agents
    hang
    suspend (meat) in order to get a gamey taste
    addle
    become rotten
    curdle
    go bad or sour
    type of:
    change
    undergo a change; become different in essence; losing one's or its original nature
  5. verb
    separate (substances) into constituent elements or parts
    synonyms: break down, break up, decompose
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    types:
    digest
    soften or disintegrate by means of chemical action, heat, or moisture
    dissociate
    to undergo a reversible or temporary breakdown of a molecule into simpler molecules or atoms
    crack
    reduce (petroleum) to a simpler compound by cracking
    type of:
    separate
    divide into components or constituents
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