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What's the proper connotation of condescend ? The dictionary says that it means to be gracious enough to but showing one's feeling of dignity.
Whenever I encounter a sentence with this word in it, I get confused whether the person condescending is actually being gracious or he/she is just pretending to be gracious.
Please explain with examples.
GB
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condesend intransitive verb / condesending adjective

My dictionary has two definitions for each. The first is a nice one, as you suggest. The second is a pejorative, and in my experience the more popular.

1. You voluntarily "come down" to the level of your "inferiors." (my words) George Washington (1st president, and General of the continental army) often stopped to assist his soldiers with difficult manual labor. (my words) "The General condesended to help the inlisted man move the heavy log."

2. You treat people as if you think they are inferior by nature. (my words) You really need an example? "I'm sick of your condescending attitude. I'm not your dog. I want a divorce!"

The first definition is used so infrequently I don't think you could say it even has a connotation. If you mean the first one, chances are people will think you mean the second one. IMHO
Hi GB,

As Avangi said, the word condescend has two meanings: a) to stoop / lower, and b) to show other people as though you are socially or intellectually superior ; for examples:
a) Please, do not condescend yourself to the level of this fellow.

b) She condescended to travel with us.
People often use the word condescending (adj.) with the second meaning.
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Grammarian-botThe dictionary says that it means to be gracious enough to but showing one's feeling of dignity.
If this is a direct quote from a dictionary I would stop using it. I've never heard "condescend" used with any other meaning than the following:
  1. To descend to the level of one considered inferior; lower oneself.
  2. To deal with people in a patronizingly superior manner.
Hi Ray,

I didn't get to it, but I think the point of G-b's quote is that when one stoops to a lower level (type 1) one should do it graciously, and without giving up one's true superiorty, or "dignity." I'm sure he left a lot out.

Many of the definitions I looked at treated it as a black and white issue, as though everyone were either class A or class B, which of course is rediculous.

Hoa,

Your type 1 example, "She condesended to travel with us," is a good one, and suggests I may have been hasty in saying this type is not often used.

Rgdz, A.
Avangi Your type 1 example, "She condesended to travel with us," is a good one, and suggests I may have been hasty in saying this type is not often used.
Hi Avangi,
Sorry, I didn't mean for it to be an example of type 1. Type 2 or b) was what I had in mind. As you said earlier, people tend to relate the word condescend with type 2 behavior (i.e., patronizingly look down on other people).
Best, - Hoa
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RayHIf this is a direct quote from a dictionary I would stop using it. I've never heard "condescend" used with any other meaning than the following:
  1. To descend to the level of one considered inferior; lower oneself.
  2. To deal with people in a patronizingly superior manner.
The exact quote is

be gracious enough (to do) though showing one's feeling of dignity or superiority.
RayH, I guess I was pretty close. Now it's up to you whether you want to stop using Oxford Dictionary. Emotion: stick out tongue
GB
Hey GB,

That "or superiority" is really key to how this word is actually used. "I'm so much better than you, but okay, I guess I can allow you to sit with me at this table. Even though I'd really rather people as good as ME were here instead."

Don't ever use this word in a way that you think is paying someone a compliment. I assure you, the person hearing it will assume a negative meaning. (Of course, if they are truly condescending, your opinion on them and their behavior won't really matter very much.)

GG
I'm pretty sure this is one of those words that has changed connotation over the years. (How old is your dictionary, G-bot?) I don't have time to look it up right now but I seem to remember in Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Collins raves about the duchess, isn't it, anyway, the member of the nobility who is his patron, saying something like "She is so gracious! So condescending!" And he definitely does not feel insulted by her behavior (although Elizabeth certainly does).

Hoa Thai, I don't think I've ever heard condescend used reflexively; you can lower yourself, but I'm not sure you can condescend yourself. Maybe because the root is "descend"?
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