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From Middle English condescenden, from Old French condescendre, from Late Latin condescendere ‎(to let one's self down, stoop, condescend), from Latin com- ‎(together) + descendere ‎(to come down); see descend.



condescend ‎(third-person singular simple present condescends, present participle condescending, simple past and past participle condescended)

  1. (intransitive) To come down from one's superior position; to deign (to do something).
    • 1665, John Dryden, The Indian Emperour, act 1, scene 2:
      Spain's mighty monarch [] / In gracious clemency, does condescend / On these conditions, to become your friend.
    • 1847, Anne Bronte, Agnes Grey, chapter 5:
      Fanny and little Harriet he seldom condescended to notice; but Mary Ann was something of a favourite.
  2. (intransitive) To treat (someone) as though inferior; to be patronizing (toward someone); to talk down (to someone).
    • 1861, Charles Dickens, Great Expectations, chapter 29:
      "You must know," said Estella, condescending to me as a brilliant and beautiful woman might, "that I have no heart."
    • 1880, Charlotte M. Yonge, Clever Woman of the Family, chapter 7:
      Ermine never let any one be condescending to her, and conducted the conversation with her usual graceful good breeding.
    • 1907, Robert W[illiam] Chambers, “chapter VIII”, in The Younger Set (Project Gutenberg; EBook #14852), New York, N.Y.: A. L. Burt Company, published 1 February 2005 (Project Gutenberg version), OCLC 4241346:
      At her invitation he outlined for her the succeeding chapters with terse military accuracy ; and what she liked best and best understood was avoidance of that false modesty which condescends, turning technicality into pabulum.
  3. (intransitive, obsolete) To consent, agree.
    • 1671, John Milton, Samson Agonistes, lines 1134-36:
      Can they think me so broken, so debased / With corporal servitude, that my mind ever / Will condescend to such absurd commands?
    • 1868, Horatio Alger, Struggling Upward, chapter 3:
      "This is the pay I get for condescending to let you go with me."
  4. (intransitive, obsolete) To come down.

Usage notes[edit]

  • This is a catenative verb that takes the to infinitive. See Appendix:English catenative verbs
  • In sense “to talk down”, the derived participial adjective condescending (and corresponding adverb condescendingly) are more common than the verb itself.
  • In older usage, "condescend" could be used non-pejoratively (in a sense similar to that of treating someone as inferior) to describe the action of those who socialized in a friendly way with their social inferiors. Now that the concept of social inferiors has largely fallen out of currency, so has that non-pejorative sense. Thus, in w:Pride_and_Prejudice, a character could say of another, "I need not say you will be delighted with her. She is all affability and condescension.”


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