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From Latin condēscēnsiō



condescension (usually uncountable, plural condescensions)

  1. The act of condescending; a manner of behaving toward others in an outwardly polite way that nevertheless implies one’s own superiority to the others; patronizing courtesy toward inferiors.
    Conscious condescension breeds panderers and enemies, not friends.
    • 1911, Robert Ames Bennet, Out of the Primitive:
      "Unfortunate situation," she replied, making an effort to moderate her superciliousness to mere condescension."
    • 1912, Joseph Crosby Lincoln, The Depot Master:
      "Huh?" he said. "Pardon me, my dear sir," repeated the Major, blandly, smoothly, and with an air of – well, not condescension, but gracious familiarity.
    • 1912, Joseph Crosby Lincoln, The Depot Master:
      The shofer opens the door of the after cockpit of the machine, and the man gets out fust, treadin' gingerly but grand, as if he was doin' the ground a condescension by steppin' on it.
    • 1914, George Washington Cable, The Amateur Garden:
      We believe our Northampton garden competition tends to do this. It brings together in neighborly fellowship those whom the discrepancies of social accomplishments would forever hold asunder and it brings them together without forced equality or awkward condescension []
    • 1917, Abraham Cahan, The Rise of David Levinsky:
      He addressed me as Dave. (There was a note of condescension as well as of admiration in this "Dave" of his. It implied that I was a shrewd fellow and an excellent customer, singularly successful and reliable, but that I was his inferior, all the same – a Jew, a social pariah.)
    • 1919, William Stearns Davis, “The Roots of War”, in Century issue=May, page 110-23:
      The Berlin rulers did indeed make a serious attempt to conciliate local opinion by sending down for once a really humane and enlightened governor, Baron von Manteuffel. Manteuffel won the personal good will of the people he was sent to govern, but his very condescension raised against him enemies at home.
    • 1922, Ben Travers, chapter 2, in A Cuckoo in the Nest[1]:
      Mother very rightly resented the slightest hint of condescension. She considered that the exclusiveness of Peter's circle was due not to its distinction, but to the fact that it was an inner Babylon of prodigality and whoredom, [] .
    • 1963, Morris West, The Shoes of the Fisherman:
      How can I tell them that they must never expect too much from a middle-aged fellow in striped cotton pajamas? But tonight is different. There is a whole concourse of Romans and of tourists in the Piazza, and it would be a courtesy – excuse me, Holiness, a great condescension! – to appear with one small blessing.... I condescend, and I am exalted once again on wave after wave of cheering and horn-blowing
  2. (usually uncountable, derogatory) A patronizing attitude or behavior. [from 1930s]
    • 1935, George Cronyn, Fortune and Men's Eyes:
      He's a snob of the first water and views the lower orders with infinite condescension.
    • 1937, Percy Marks, And Points Beyond:
      Tommy rarely entered the top social stratum where Tyckman moved by right of wealth and ancestry, but he had found the man pleasant and without condescension.
    • 1941, Stephen Vincent Benet, The Devil and Daniel Webster:
      Jabez rides through the fields on his sleek new horse, watching his neighbors harvest his crops. He shows a certain condescension toward them which is akin to arrogance.
    • 1954, Chester Himes, Third Generation:
      He was self-conscious about the brace and wore a jacket even on the hottest days. It held him abnormally erect. His face was tight from the discomfort and frustration. His posture was mistaken for a sign of arrogance, his expression for disdain and condescension.
    • 1984, I.C. Jarvie, Rationality and Relativism:
      What if the signals are confused and both the doctrines of respect for and condescension towards other moralities is preached?
    • 1989, William A. Henry III, “A Zany Redheaded Everywoman”, in Time Magazine, number 1989/12/08:
      The greatest indignity of all, it generally turned out, was the chuckling condescension of her husband Ricky, played by her real-life husband and business partner Desi Arnaz. The confident king of the castle, he was always ready to teach Lucy a lesson.
    • 1996 April 28, Jon Pareles, “POP VIEW; Can Rock Play to the Broadway Crowd?”, in New York Times:
      But Broadway's longtime condescension to rock musicians meant that a generation or two of potential theater composers took its talents elsewhere.
    • 1999 June 28, Paul Quinn-Judge, “Yeltsin's Fast-Break Generals”, in Time Magazine:
      Yeltsin, meanwhile, was smarting at what he felt was Bill Clinton's condescension toward him.
    • 2000, Paul Taylor, “TV's Political Profits”, in Mother Jones, volume 25, number 3, page 31:
      CBS Morning News anchor Bryant Gumbel indulged in a bout of on-air condescension about the campaign. "I stumbled upon Saturday's debate," he told viewers, "and it seemed a rather sad show."
    • 2009 June 29, Nancy Gibbs, “Dads Are Dudes”, in Time, volume 173, number 25, page 56:
      We talk about fathers like puppies tripping over their big paws, a portrait long mirrored in a culture in which Father Knows Least, from Fred Flintstone to Homer Simpson. We diminish with faint praise; dads still get points for returning children at the end of the day with all their limbs in place. But the more engaged fathers become, the more women have to reckon with what a true parenting partnership would look like. Maternal condescension only really took hold in the modern age, when we turned parenting into a profession with its own implicit peer-review boards and competitive frenzy.


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