1. One of a series of steps in a process, course, or progression; a stage: proceeded to the next degree of difficulty.
2. A step in a direct hereditary line of descent or ascent: First cousins are two degrees from their common ancestor.
3. Relative social or official rank, dignity, or position.
4. Relative intensity or amount, as of a quality or attribute: a high degree of accuracy.
5. The extent or measure of a state of being, an action, or a relation: modernized their facilities to a large degree.
6. A unit division of a temperature scale.
7. Mathematics A planar unit of angular measure equal in magnitude to 1/360 of a complete revolution.
8. A unit of latitude or longitude, equal to 1/360 of a great circle.
a. The greatest sum of the exponents of the variables in a term of a polynomial or polynomial equation.
b. The exponent of the derivative of highest order in a differential equation in standard form.
a. An academic title given by a college or university to a student who has completed a course of study: received the Bachelor of Arts degree at commencement.
b. A similar title conferred as an honorary distinction.
11. Law A division or classification of a specific crime according to its seriousness: murder in the second degree.
12. A classification of the severity of an injury, especially a burn: a third-degree burn.
13. Grammar One of the forms used in the comparison of adjectives and adverbs. For example, tall is the positive degree, taller the comparative degree, and tallest the superlative degree of the adjective tall.
a. One of the seven notes of a diatonic scale.
b. A space or line of the staff.
Little by little; gradually.
to a degree
To a small extent; in a limited way: doesn't like spicy food, but can eat a little pepper to a degree.
[Middle English degre, from Old French, from Vulgar Latin *dēgradus : Latin dē-, de- + Latin gradus, step; see ghredh- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.