descent, decent and dissent - the difference

Descent means going downwards, a downward slope, or ancestry.
Decent means civilized, good or adequate.
Dissent means to argue or a difference of opinion.

Descent, Decent, and Dissent

There is often confusion over the words descent, decent, and dissent.


The noun descent has a few meanings:

The action of descending (i.e., going downwards).
  • The Boeing 737 started its descent from 20,000 feet.
A downhill incline.
  • It features a long, steep descent that is ideal for advanced skiers.
Family origin.
  • She is from Indian descent.


The adjective decent means civilized, good or adequate. (It rhymes with recent.)

  • Ninety-eight percent of the adults in this country are decent, hardworking citizens.
  • That's a decent plate of food.


Dissent can be a noun meaning difference of opinion or a verb meaning to disagree.

  • The referee has given him a red card for dissent.
  • Acceptance of dissent is the fundamental requirement of a free society.
  • I will dissent if you continue with this course of action.
  • (Dissent is a verb in this example.)
 Select an answer to replace the word in bold:


Native English speakers always pronounce these words correctly. Confusion only occurs in writing. Therefore, if you remember that decent rhymes with recent (which is logical considering they share the same last five letters), then you will succeed in differentiating between decent and descent.


The street word diss (deriving from disrespect) has connotations of disagreement and arguing. Therefore, the first four letters of dissent can remind you of its meaning.

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