Etymology: Middle English degenerat, from Latin degeneratus, past participle of degenerare to degenerate, from de- + gener-, genus race, kind — more at kin
Date: 15th century
a. having declined or become less specialized (as in nature, character, structure, or function) from an ancestral or former state
b. having sunk to a condition below that which is normal to a type; especially having sunk to a lower and usually corrupt and vicious state
c. degraded 2
2. being mathematically simpler (as by having a factor or constant equal to zero) than the typical case <a degenerate hyperbola> 3. characterized by atoms stripped of their electrons and by very great density <degenerate matter>; also consisting of degenerate matter <a degenerate star> 4. having two or more states or subdivisions <degenerate energy level> 5. having more than one codon representing an amino acid; also being such a codon Synonyms: see vicious • degenerately adverb • degenerateness noun II. verb Date: 1545 intransitive verb 1. to pass from a higher to a lower type or condition ; deteriorate 2. to sink into a low intellectual or moral state 3. to decline in quality <the poetry gradually degenerates into jingles> 4. to decline from a condition or from the standards of a species, race, or breed 5. to evolve or develop into a less autonomous or less functionally active form <degenerated into dependent parasites> transitive verb to cause to degenerate III. noun Date: 1555 one that is degenerate: as a. one degraded from the normal moral standard b. a sexual pervert c. one showing signs of reversion to an earlier culture stage
New Collegiate Dictionary. 2001.