1540s, "to lose or suffer impairment to the qualities proper to the race or kind," also figurative, "decay in quality, pass to an inferior state," from Latin degeneratus, past participle of degenerare "to be inferior to one's ancestors, to become unlike one's race or kind, fall from ancestral quality," used of physical as well as moral qualities, from phrase de genere, from de "off, away from" (see de-) + genus (genitive generis) "birth, descent" (from PIE root *gene- "give birth, beget"). Figurative sense of "to fall off, decline" was in Latin. Related: Degenerated; degenerating.
late 15c., "having lost or suffered impairment to the qualities proper to the race or kind," from Latin degeneratus, past participle of degenerare "to be inferior to one's ancestors, to become unlike one's race or kind, fall from ancestral quality," used of physical as well as moral qualities, from phrase de genere, from de "off, away from" (see de-) + genus (genitive generis) "birth, descent" (from PIE root *gene- "give birth, beget").
Of things, "unworthy, debased, having fallen in quality or passed to an inferior state," from 1550s. The noun, "one who has degenerated," is from 1550s. Related: Degenerately; degenerateness.
"tending to degenerate," 1846; see degenerate + -ive.
1660s, "deteriorated condition, state of being degenerate;" 1670s, "tendency to decrease in excellence of essential qualities, a downward course;" see degenerate (adj.) + abstract noun suffix -cy.
*genə-, also *gen-, Proto-Indo-European root meaning "give birth, beget," with derivatives referring to procreation and familial and tribal groups.
It forms all or part of: Antigone; autogenous; benign; cognate; congener; congenial; congenital; connate; cosmogony; cryogenic; degenerate; engender; engine; epigone; eugenics; -gen; gendarme; gender; gene; genealogy; general; generate; generation; generic; generous; genesis; -genesis; genial; -genic; genital; genitive; genius; genocide; genotype; genre; gens; gent; genteel; gentile; gentle; gentry; genuine; genus; -geny; germ; german (adj.) "of the same parents or grandparents;" germane; germinal; germinate; germination; gingerly; gonad; gono-; gonorrhea; heterogeneous; homogeneous; homogenize; homogenous; impregnate; indigenous; ingenious; ingenuous; innate; jaunty; kermes; kin; kindergarten; kindred; king; kind (n.) "class, sort, variety;" kind (adj.) "friendly, deliberately doing good to others;" Kriss Kringle; malign; miscegenation; nada; naive; nascent; natal; Natalie; nation; native; nature; nee; neonate; Noel; oncogene; ontogeny; photogenic; phylogeny; pregnant (adj.1) "with child;" primogenitor; primogeniture; progenitor; progeny; puisne; puny; renaissance; theogony; wunderkind.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit janati "begets, bears," janah "offspring, child, person," janman- "birth, origin," jatah "born;" Avestan zizanenti "they bear;" Greek gignesthai "to become, happen," genos "race, kind," gonos "birth, offspring, stock;" Latin gignere "to beget," gnasci "to be born," genus (genitive generis) "race, stock, kind; family, birth, descent, origin," genius "procreative divinity, inborn tutelary spirit, innate quality," ingenium "inborn character," possibly germen "shoot, bud, embryo, germ;" Lithuanian gentis "kinsmen;" Gothic kuni "race;" Old English cennan "beget, create," gecynd "kind, nature, race;" Old High German kind "child;" Old Irish ro-genar "I was born;" Welsh geni "to be born;" Armenian cnanim "I bear, I am born."
"one who believes that the general tendency of humanity in its mental and moral life is to degenerate," 1871, from degeneration + -ist.
early 14c., "deterioration, degeneration, a sinking into an impaired or inferior condition," from Old French declin, from decliner "to sink, decline, degenerate" (see decline (v.)). Meaning "the time of life when physical and mental powers are failing" is short for decline of life (by 1711).
late 14c., degraden, "deprive of office, dignity, or honors; reduce from a higher to a lower rank," from Old French degrader (12c.) "degrade, deprive (of office, rank, etc.)," from des- "down" (see dis-) + Latin gradi "to walk, go, step" (from PIE root *ghredh- "to walk, go"). From 1640s as "lower in character, cause to deteriorate." Intransitive sense of "degenerate, deteriorate" is by 1850. Related: Degraded; degrading.