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1. Having declined, as in function or nature, from a former or original state: a degenerate form of an ancient folk art.
2. Morally corrupt or given to vice.
3. Physics Relating to two or more quantum states that share the same quantum numbers: degenerate energy levels.
4. Physics Characterized by great density and consisting of atoms stripped of electrons: degenerate matter.
5. Medicine Characterized by degeneration, as of tissue, a cell, or an organ.
6. Biology Having lost one or more highly developed functions, characteristics, or structures through evolution: a degenerate life form.
7. Genetics Relating to or being a gene that has multiple codons for the same amino acid.
A depraved or corrupt person.
intr.v. (-ə-rāt′) de·gen·er·at·ed, de·gen·er·at·ing, de·gen·er·ates
1. To fall below a normal or desirable state, especially functionally or morally; deteriorate: old water pipes that are degenerating with age; a dispute that degenerated into a brawl.
2. To decline in quality: The quality of his writing degenerated as he continued to drink.
3. To undergo degeneration.
[Latin dēgenerātus, past participle of dēgenerāre, to depart from one's own kind, deteriorate : dē-, de- + genus, gener-, race; see genə- in Indo-European roots.]
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.