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any of a series of steps or stages, as in a process or course of action; a point in any scale.
a stage or point in or as if in progression or retrogression:
We followed the degrees of her recovery with joy.
a stage in a scale of intensity or amount:
a high degree of mastery.
extent, measure, scope, or the like:
To what degree will he cooperate?
a stage in a scale of rank or station; relative standing in society, business, etc.:
His uncouth behavior showed him to be a man of low degree.
Education. an academic title conferred by universities and colleges as an indication of the completion of a course of study, or as an honorary recognition of achievement.
a unit of measure, as of temperature or pressure, marked off on the scale of a measuring instrument:
This thermometer shows a scale of degrees between only 20° and 40° C.
Geometry. the 360th part of a complete angle or turn, often represented by the sign°, as in 45°, which is read as 45 degrees.
Compare angle1 (def 1c).
the distinctive classification of a crime according to its gravity:
murder in the first degree.
Grammar. one of the parallel formations of adjectives and adverbs used to express differences in quality, quantity, or intensity. In English, low and careful are the positive degree, lower and more careful are the comparative degree, lowest and most careful are the superlative degree.

the sum of the exponents of the variables in an algebraic term:
x 3 and 2x 2 y are terms of degree three.
the term of highest degree of a given equation or polynomial:
The expression 3x 2 y + y 2 + 1 is of degree three.
the exponent of the derivative of highest order appearing in a given differential equation.

Music. a tone or step of the scale.
Astrology. any of the 360 equal divisions of the ecliptic measured counterclockwise from the vernal equinox. Each of the 12 signs of the zodiac contains 30 degrees.
a certain distance or remove in the line of descent, determining the proximity of relationship:
a cousin of the second degree.
Archaic. a line or point on the earth or the celestial sphere, as defined by degrees of latitude.
Obsolete. a step, as of a stair.
by degrees, by easy stages; gradually:
She grew angrier by degrees.
to a degree,

to a considerable extent; exceedingly.
to a small extent; somewhat:
He is to a degree difficult to get along with.

Contemporary Examples

The Independent Rundown, October 22 Matthew DeLuca October 21, 2012
The New College Rankings Kathleen Kingsbury January 25, 2009
Between Boredom and Terror: One US Soldier’s Letters from Afghanistan Brian Castner February 5, 2014
GOP: It’s Payback Time! Lloyd Grove September 28, 2010
Earn Your Degree in… Lobbying? Michelle Cottle April 2, 2014

Historical Examples

Napoleon the Little Victor Hugo
Malbone Thomas Wentworth Higginson
The Radio Detectives Under the Sea A. Hyatt Verrill
The Conquest of Fear Basil King
The Philosophy of the Weather Thomas Belden Butler

a stage in a scale of relative amount or intensity: a high degree of competence
an academic award conferred by a university or college on successful completion of a course or as an honorary distinction (honorary degree)
any of three categories of seriousness of a burn See burn1 (sense 23)
(in the US) any of the categories into which a crime is divided according to its seriousness: first-degree murder
(genealogy) a step in a line of descent, used as a measure of the closeness of a blood relationship
(grammar) any of the forms of an adjective used to indicate relative amount or intensity: in English they are positive, comparative, and superlative
(music) any note of a diatonic scale relative to the other notes in that scale: D is the second degree of the scale of C major
a unit of temperature on a specified scale: the normal body temperature of man is 36.8 degrees Celsius, ° See also Celsius scale, Fahrenheit scale
a measure of angle equal to one three-hundred-and-sixtieth of the angle traced by one complete revolution of a line about one of its ends ° See also minute1 , second2 (sense 1a) Compare radian

a unit of latitude or longitude, divided into 60 minutes, used to define points on the earth’s surface or on the celestial sphere
a point or line defined by units of latitude and/or longitude

a unit on any of several scales of measurement, as for alcohol content or specific gravity °

the highest power or the sum of the powers of any term in a polynomial or by itself: x4 + x + 3 and xyz² are of the fourth degree
the greatest power of the highest order derivative in a differential equation

(obsolete) a step; rung
(archaic) a stage in social status or rank
by degrees, little by little; gradually
to a degree, somewhat; rather
degrees of frost, See frost (sense 3)



by degrees
third degree
to some degree
to the nth degree


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    On purpose, deliberately, as in Whether by luck or by design, his application was accepted. This term, originally put as on design, uses design in the sense of “plan.” [ First half of 1600s ]

  • By-dint-of

    By means of, as in By dint of hard work he got his degree in three years. The word dint, which survives only in this expression, originally meant “a stroke or blow,” and by the late 1500s signified the force behind such a blow. The current term preserves the implication of vigorous or persistent means.

  • Stage

    a single step or degree in a process; a particular phase, period, position, etc., in a process, development, or series. a raised platform or floor, as for speakers, performers, etc. Theater. the platform on which the actors perform in a theater. this platform with all the parts of the theater and all the apparatus back […]

  • By-election

    a special election, not held at the time of a general election, to fill a vacancy in Parliament. Contemporary Examples Galloway and Bradford Deserve Each Other David Frum March 29, 2012 A Bad Night for British Conservatives David Frum February 28, 2013 Burma’s Spring Turns Deadly as Riots Shake the Town of Meiktila Peter Popham […]

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