Descent, Decent, and Dissent

by Craig Shrives
The Quick Answer
What are the differences between descent, decent, and dissent?

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.)
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

adverse or averse? affect or effect? appraise or apprise? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? tenant or tenet? who's or whose? What are adjectives? What are nouns? What are verbs? List of easily confused words