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.
1530s, "a reduction in rank or dignity," from French dégradation (14c., Old French degradacion), noun of action from past-participle stem of degrader (see degrade). From 1752 as "state of being reduced from a higher to a lower grade or power;" by 1769 as "reduction of strength, value, magnitude, etc." Related: Degradational.
Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to walk, go."
It forms all or part of: aggress; aggression; aggressive; centigrade; congress; degrade; degree; degression; digress; digression; egress; gradation; grade; gradual; graduate; grallatorial; gravigrade; ingredient; ingress; plantigrade; progress; progression; regress; regression; retrograde; retrogress; tardigrade; transgress; transgression.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Latin gradus "a step, a pace, gait," figuratively "a step toward something, a degree of something rising by stages;" gradi "to walk, step, go;" Lithuanian gridiju, gridyti "to go, wander;" Old Church Slavonic gredo "to come;" Old Irish in-greinn "he pursues."
c. 1400, "humble, lowly, poor; of low quality; menial," from Latin abiectus "low, crouching; common, mean, contemptible; cast down, dispirited," past participle of abicere "to throw away, cast off; degrade, humble, lower," from ab "off, away from" (see ab-) + iacere "to throw" (past participle iactus; from PIE root *ye- "to throw, impel").
The figurative sense of "downcast, brought low, hopeless," is by 1510s. Also in Middle English "cast off, rejected, expelled, outcast," a sense now obsolete. Abject formerly also was a verb in English, "to cast out, expel; to degrade, humiliate" (15c.-17c.). As a noun, "base or servile person," 1530s. Related: Abjectly; abjectness.
late 14c., "degrade socially" (for marrying below rank or without proper ceremony), from Anglo-French and Old French desparagier (Modern French déparager) "reduce in rank, degrade, devalue, depreciate," originally "to marry unequally, marry to one of inferior condition or rank," and thus, by extension, to bring on oneself or one's family the disgrace or dishonor involved in this, from des- "away" (see dis-) + parage "rank, lineage" (see peer (n.)).
Also from late 14c. as "injure or dishonor by a comparison," especially by treating as equal or inferior to what is of less dignity, importance, or value. Sense of "belittle, undervalue, criticize or censure unjustly" is by 1530s. Related: Disparaged; disparaging; disparagingly.
1560s, "lower in position, rank, or dignity, impair morally," from de- "down" + base (adj.) "low," on analogy of abase (or, alternatively, from obsolete verb base "to abuse"). From 1590s as "lower in quality or value" (of currency, etc.), "degrade, adulterate." Related: Debased; debasing; debasement.
type of medieval carved stone female figure, 1846, from Irish Sile na gcioch, literally "Sheila of the breasts" [OED]. According to modern folklorists, not a Celtic survival, but originating rather in the Romanesque churches of France and northern Spain. Their theories that it is meant to degrade the female body and discourage sexuality, or that it is meant as an apotropaic gesture to ward off the devil, are not entirely convincing.