degrade vs denigrate vs downgrade :

degrade or denigrate or downgrade

Many people use “downgrade” instead of “denigrate” to mean “defame, slander.” “Downgrade” is entirely different in meaning. When something is downgraded, it is lowered in grade (usually made worse), not just considered worse. “When the president of the company fled to Rio with fifteen million dollars, its bonds were downgraded to junk bond status.” “Degrade” is much more flexible in meaning. It can mean to lower in status or rank (like “downgrade”) or to corrupt or make contemptible; but it always has to do with actual reduction in value rather than mere insult, like “denigrate.” Most of the time when people use “downgrade” they would be better off instead using “insult,” “belittle,” or “sneer at.”While we’re at it, let’s distinguish between “deprecate,” meaning “disapprove,” and “depreciate,” which, like “downgrade” is not a mere matter of approval or opinion but signifies an actual lowering of value.

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  • v  reduce the level of land, as by erosion
  • v  reduce in worth or character, usually verbally
  • v  lower the grade of something; reduce its worth

  • v  cause to seem less serious; play down
  • v  charge falsely or with malicious intent; attack the good name and reputation of someone

  • n  the property possessed by a slope or surface that descends
  • v  rate lower; lower in value or esteem
News & Articles

  • When Market Incentives Undermine Morality
    The Greek philosophers were not entirely wrong about markets. When they reward cooperation, people become more obliging and virtuous -- but markets don’t always reward it. Though on balance they have greatly improved our moral behavior, they can also degrade it.
    June 9, 2013 - Bloomberg