Definition of descend in English:

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Pronunciation: /dɪˈsɛnd/


[no object]
1Move or fall downwards: the aircraft began to descend
More example sentences
  • Caroline leapt out of the van as heavy rain began to descend.
  • Huge drops of falling rain descended from the heavy clouds above.
  • Doors slid silently closed behind him and he began to descend.
go down, come down;
drop, fall, sink, subside;
dive, plummet, plunge, nosedive, pitch, tumble, slump
1.1 [with object] Move down (a slope or stairs): the vehicle descended a ramp
More example sentences
  • The problem presents as anterior knee pain, which is worse after prolonged sitting with the knee flexed, or on climbing or descending stairs or slopes.
  • John Henry is speaking to an acquaintance in the lobby and a beautiful young woman, followed closely behind by a companion, is descending the stairs.
  • A young woman descends the stairs from a low, curtained gallery to hand a sheet of music to a cellist waiting downstairs.
climb down, go down, come down, move down, pass down, walk down;
shin down
1.2(Of a road, path, or flight of steps) slope or lead downwards: a side road descended into the forest [with object]: a flight of stairs descended a steep slope
More example sentences
  • Angel walked the hallways without trouble until she turned at the right hallway and saw several flights of steps descending before her.
  • Broad flights of steps descended directly into the azure water.
  • She pushed a button, and a large flight of stairs descended from the ship to the ground.
slope, dip, slant, decline, go down, sink, fall away
1.3Move down a scale of quality: (as adjective descending) the categories are listed in descending order of usefulness
More example sentences
  • You can also choose to display from 10 to 100 items per page, in descending or ascending order.
  • You can then decide on posting order: whether alphabetically or by date, ascending or descending.
  • This will either sort the list ascending or descending.
1.4 Music (Of sound) become lower in pitch: (as adjective descending) a passage of descending chords
More example sentences
  • The implied connection between ‘cadence’ and falling is most explicitly realized in music where a melodic line descends conclusively to the modal final or tonal tonic.
  • The first descending row of chords is just magic, raising the little hairs on the back of a listener's neck.
  • By the end of ‘Cromosomi’, with its tricky harmonic sequence that descends in semitones, he had the audience in the palm of his hand.
1.5 (descend to) Act in a shameful way that is far below one’s usual standards: he was scrupulous in refusing to descend to misrepresentation
More example sentences
  • Politics now dominates - and the level of civility descends to new lows.
  • Sometimes the physical instincts are elevated to a spiritual level and often the spiritual being descends to a baser life.
  • Anyone who descends to such cheap jibes with nothing more substantial to say is just making himself ridiculous.
condescend, stoop, lower oneself, abase oneself, humble oneself, demean oneself, debase oneself, deign;
resort, be reduced, go as far as
informal come down from one's high horse
1.6 (descend into) (Of a situation or group of people) reach (an undesirable state): the army had descended into chaos
More example sentences
  • With the onset of the reforms, the power situation in the State descended into chaos.
  • However the situation soon descends into something more sinister.
  • The situation has now descended into farce as the row rumbles on.
degenerate, deteriorate, decline, sink, slide, fall, drop;
go downhill, decay, worsen, get/grow worse, take a turn for the worse, go to rack and ruin
informal go to pot, go to the dogs, go to seed, hit the skids, go down the tubes, go down the toilet
2 (descend on/upon) Make a sudden attack on: the militia descended on Rye
More example sentences
  • When we began to make speeches the riot police descended on us and started attacking people, throwing tear gas everywhere.
  • In the single worst incident, attackers descended on the village.
  • I knew that they were far stronger than I was, and that if I did not do something, the other attackers would descend upon me in a moment.
2.1 (descend on/upon) Make an unexpected visit to: groups of visiting supporters descended on a local pub
More example sentences
  • One week, the Prime Minister descends on the town to visit the office of a training company.
  • Eight friends came to visit and descended on my living room.
  • He was visiting his children when federal agents descended upon his ex-wife's house and took him away in handcuffs.
come in force, arrive in hordes, attack, assail, assault, storm, invade, pounce on, raid, swoop on, charge
2.2(Of a feeling) develop suddenly and affect a place or person: an air of gloom descended on Labour Party headquarters
More example sentences
  • My depression descends on me really suddenly, and… when I am there I can't… move… within it.
  • A thick tension descended on them suddenly as their eyes locked.
  • I'm not sure if it was because of the laughing or because of the sudden depression that descended upon me.
2.3(Of night or darkness) begin to occur: as the winter darkness descended, the fighting ceased
More example sentences
  • It was now a matter of time before the moonless darkness of night descended.
  • During autumn and winter, darkness descends at about 4pm and the area dies once children have left the two local schools.
  • Darkness was beginning to descend and it was time for the happy couple to make the long journey home again where Mick's plan was to have a few pints in his local before closing time.
3 (be descended from) Be a blood relative of (a specified ancestor): John Dalrymple was descended from an ancient Ayrshire family
More example sentences
  • The findings show that more than 95 percent of dogs in this group were descended from three original female ancestors.
  • This character is common to all animals as the result of their being descended from a common multicellular ancestor that also possessed this character.
  • White hart deer graze the lawns, said to be descended from two white harts given by Elizabeth 1 to her god-child.
be a descendant of, originate from, issue from, spring from, have as an ancestor, derive from
3.1(Of an asset) pass by inheritance, typically from parent to child: his lands descended to his eldest son
More example sentences
  • Heathcliff dies intestate, the property descends - as it should - to the young lovers, and the two great houses revert to their dynastic owners.
  • In accordance with Colonel Brooke's will, her property descended to her daughter, whose husband thus became possessed of a respectable income
  • He remarried, and after his own death in 1556, his property descended to his son William.
be handed down, be passed down, pass by heredity, be transferred by inheritance;
be inherited by


Middle English: from Old French descendre, from Latin descendere, from de- 'down' + scandere 'to climb'.

  • scale from Middle English:

    English has three main words scale, two of which share an ancestry. The scale of fishes and reptiles has the same root as the scale used for weighing, and both are related to shell. The first scale is the one in the scales fall from someone's eyes, ‘someone is no longer deceived’. In the biblical Acts of the Apostles the expression describes how St Paul, blinded by his vision on the road to Damascus, was given his sight back by God. The weighing scale had the early sense ‘drinking cup’(a meaning which survives in South African English) which probably transferred to the pans of the scales. It comes from Old Norse skál ‘bowl’, also source of the drinking toast skol. The scale in music and measuring derives from Latin scala ‘ladder’, from the root of scandere ‘to climb’, an element in ascend, descend, and condescend, all Late Middle English. See also echelon, scan

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: des|cend

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