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 (dĕk′ə-dəns, dĭ-kād′ns)
1. A process, condition, or period of deterioration or decline, as in morals or art; decay.
2. often Decadence A literary movement especially of late 19th-century France and England characterized by refined aestheticism, artifice, and the quest for new sensations.

[French décadence, from Old French decadence, from Medieval Latin dēcadentia, a decaying, declining, from Vulgar Latin *dēcadere, to decay; see decay.]
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


(ˈdɛkədəns) or


1. deterioration, esp of morality or culture; decay; degeneration
2. the state reached through such a process
[C16: from French, from Medieval Latin dēcadentia, literally: a falling away; see decay]
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014


(ˈdɛk ə dəns, dɪˈkeɪd ns)

also dec•a•den•cy

(ˈdɛk ə dən si, dɪˈkeɪd n-)

1. the act or process of falling into decay; deterioration.
2. moral degeneration.
[1540–50; < Middle French < Medieval Latin dēcadentia= Late Latin dēcadent-, s. of dēcadēns, present participle of dēcadere to fall away]
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.



bread and circuses Free food and entertainment, particularly that which a government provides in order to appease the common people. Such is reputed to bring about a civilization’s decline by undermining the initiative of the populace, and the term has come to mean collective degeneration or debauchery. According to Juvenal’s Satires, panem et circenses were the two things most coveted by the Roman people. Bread and Circuses was the title of a book by H. P. Eden (1914). Rudyard Kipling used the expression in Debits and Credits (1924):

Rome has always debauched her beloved Provincia with bread and circuses.

the primrose path The route of pleasure and decadence; a frivolous, self-indulgent life. In Shakespeare’s Macbeth the drunken porter, playing at being the tender of Hell gate, says:

I had thought to have let in some of all professions that go the primrose way to the everlasting bonfire. (II, iii)

The expression connotes a colorful, blossomy course of luxury and ease, but as commonly used also includes the implication that such a carefree, self-gratifying life cannot be enjoyed without paying a price.

Never to sell his soul by travelling the primrose path to wealth and distinction. (James A. Froude, Thomas Carlyle, 1882)

wine and roses Wanton decadence and luxury; indulgence in pleasure and promiscuity; la dolce vita. This expression, often extended to days of wine and roses, alludes to the opulence as well as the depravity of the primrose path. The longer expression was popularized by an early 1960s film and song so entitled.

Picturesque Expressions: A Thematic Dictionary, 1st Edition. © 1980 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.decadence - the state of being degenerate in mental or moral qualities
abasement, abjection, degradation - a low or downcast state; "each confession brought her into an attitude of abasement"- H.L.Menchken
Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.


Collins Thesaurus of the English Language – Complete and Unabridged 2nd Edition. 2002 © HarperCollins Publishers 1995, 2002


Descent to a lower level or condition:
The American Heritage® Roget's Thesaurus. Copyright © 2013, 2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
إنْحِطاط أخلاقإنْحِطاط، إنْحِلال
hnignun, úrkynjunspilling
dekadansasmoralinis nuopolisnedorovingumaspagedęspuolęs
ahlâkî çöküntüçökmeçöküşsefahat


[ˈdekədəns] Ndecadencia f
Collins Spanish Dictionary - Complete and Unabridged 8th Edition 2005 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1971, 1988 © HarperCollins Publishers 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2005


[ˈdɛkədəns] ndécadence f
Collins English/French Electronic Resource. © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


nDekadenz f
Collins German Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged 7th Edition 2005. © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1980 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2005, 2007


[ˈdɛkədns] ndecadenza
Collins Italian Dictionary 1st Edition © HarperCollins Publishers 1995


(ˈdekədəns) noun
1. a falling from high to low standards in morals or the arts. the decadence of the late Roman empire.
2. the state of having low or incorrect standards of behaviour; immorality. He lived a life of decadence.
ˈdecadent adjective
a decadent young man.

decadence ends in -ence (not -ance).
Kernerman English Multilingual Dictionary © 2006-2013 K Dictionaries Ltd.
References in classic literature ?
He thought the city of the ancient Romans a little vulgar, finding distinction only in the decadence of the Empire; but the Rome of the Popes appealed to his sympathy, and in his chosen words, quite exquisitely, there appeared a rococo beauty.
It may be that in the larger design of the universe this invasion from Mars is not without its ultimate benefit for men; it has robbed us of that serene confidence in the future which is the most fruitful source of decadence, the gifts to human science it has brought are enormous, and it has done much to promote the conception of the commonweal of mankind.
The two most remarkable are a young man who presents all the characteristics of a period of national decadence; reminding me strongly of some diminutive Hellenised Roman of the third century.
In this decadence, too, the art of fire-making had been forgotten on the earth.
When the decadence attacks a nature naturally proud and selfish and vain, and lacking both the aptitude and habit of self-restraint, the development of the disease is more swift, and ranges to farther limits.
Its Literature and Art have what one might call the kink of the unseen about them, and this persists even through decadence and affectation.
They contain two or three hundred queer old pictures, by old Swiss masters--old boss sign-painters, who flourished before the decadence of art.
Then I would draw their attention to the fresh beauties that kept sweeping into view, and they would glance round and say "charming," "sweetly pretty," and immediately go off into raptures over each other's pocket-handkerchiefs, and mourn with one another over the decadence of cambric frilling.
One can distinguish on its ruins three sorts of lesions, all three of which cut into it at different depths; first, time, which has insensibly notched its surface here and there, and gnawed it everywhere; next, political and religious revolution, which, blind and wrathful by nature, have flung themselves tumultuously upon it, torn its rich garment of carving and sculpture, burst its rose windows, broken its necklace of arabesques and tiny figures, torn out its statues, sometimes because of their mitres, sometimes because of their crowns; lastly, fashions, even more grotesque and foolish, which, since the anarchical and splendid deviations of the Renaissance, have followed each other in the necessary decadence of architecture.
He remembered his long travels in Germany, he remembered on his return his growing disapproval of English slackness, her physical and moral decadence. Her faults had inspired him not with the sorrow of one of her real sons, but with the contempt of one only half bound to her by natural ties.
The thought was horrible, not solely because of the hideous fate to which I was condemned, but from the contemplation it engendered of the sad decadence of a once enlightened race.
This he made excuse for renewed arguments, and used wayside shows as illustrations of the decadence of England.