Meaning of degenerate

de•gen•er•ate

Pronunciation: (v.di-jen'u-rāt"adj., n.di-jen'ur-it), [key]
— v., adj., n. -at•ed, -at•ing,
—v.i.
  1. to fall below a normal or desirable level in physical, mental, or moral qualities; deteriorate: The morale of the soldiers degenerated, and they were unable to fight.
  2. to diminish in quality, esp. from a former state of coherence, balance, integrity, etc.: The debate degenerated into an exchange of insults.
  3. to lose functional activity, as a tissue or organ.
  4. (of a species or any of its traits or structures) to revert to a simple, less highly organized, or less functionally active type, as a parasitic plant that has lost its taproot or the vestigial wings of a flightless bird.
—v.t.
  1. to cause degeneration in; bring about a decline, deterioration, or reversion in.
—adj.
  1. having fallen below a normal or desirable level, esp. in physical or moral qualities; deteriorated; degraded: a degenerate king.
  2. having lost, or become impaired with respect to, the qualities proper to the race or kind: a degenerate vine.
  3. characterized by or associated with degeneracy: degenerate times.
  4. pertaining to a limiting case of a mathematical system that is more symmetrical or simpler in form than the general case.
    1. (of modes of vibration of a system) having the same frequency.
    2. (of quantum states of a system) having equal energy.
—n.
  1. a person who has declined, as in morals or character, from a type or standard considered normal.
  2. a person or thing that reverts to an earlier stage of culture, development, or evolution.
  3. a sexual deviate.
Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Copyright © 1997, by Random House, Inc., on Infoplease.
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