Descent, Decent, and Dissent

What Is the Difference between "Descent," "Decent," and "Dissent"?

homesitemapA-Z confused words descent, decent, and dissent
"Descent" and "decent" are easy to confuse because their spellings are so similar. Similarly, "descent" and "dissent" are also often confused because they sound identical (i.e., they are perfect homonyms).

The two words that cause writers most trouble are "descent" and "decent." When writers are reminded how these words are pronounced, the issue is usually resolved.
  • "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, or dissent?

More about "Descent," "Decent," and "Dissent"

There is often confusion over the words "descent," "decent," and "dissent." They sound similar, but their meanings are quite different.


The noun "descent" has three main meanings:

(1) The action of descending (i.e., going downwards)

  • The Boeing 737 started its descent from 20,000 feet. correct tick

(2) A downhill incline

  • It features a long, steep descent that is ideal for advanced skiers. correct tick

(3) Family origin

  • She is from Indian descent. correct tick


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

Example sentences with "decent":
  • Ninety-eight percent of the adults here are decent, hard-working citizens. correct tick
  • That's a decent plate of food. correct tick


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

Example sentences with "dissent":
  • The referee has given him a red card for dissent. correct tick
  • Acceptance of dissent is the fundamental requirement of a free society. correct tick
  • I will dissent if you continue with this course of action. correct tick
  • (Dissent is a verb in this example.)

Remembering "Decent"

"Decent" rhymes with "recent."

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), you will succeed in differentiating between "decent" and "descent."

Remembering "Dissent"

The street word to diss (deriving from disrespect) is close in meaning to "to dissent" (which means "to disagree"). Therefore, the first four letters of "dissent" can remind you of its meaning.
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This page was written by Craig Shrives.

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