1. any of a series of steps or stages, as in a process or course of action; a point in any scale.
  2. a stage or point in or as if in progression or retrogression: We followed the degrees of her recovery with joy.
  3. a stage in a scale of intensity or amount: a high degree of mastery.
  4. extent, measure, scope, or the like: To what degree will he cooperate?
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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).
  9. the distinctive classification of a crime according to its gravity: murder in the first degree.
  10. 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.
  11. Mathematics.
    1. the sum of the exponents of the variables in an algebraic term: x3 and 2x2y are terms of degree three.
    2. the term of highest degree of a given equation or polynomial: The expression 3x2y + y2 + 1 is of degree three.
    3. the exponent of the derivative of highest order appearing in a given differential equation.
  12. Music. a tone or step of the scale.
  13. 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.
  14. a certain distance or remove in the line of descent, determining the proximity of relationship: a cousin of the second degree.
  15. Archaic. a line or point on the earth or the celestial sphere, as defined by degrees of latitude.
  16. Obsolete. a step, as of a stair.

  1. by degrees, by easy stages; gradually: She grew angrier by degrees.
  2. to a degree,
    1. to a considerable extent; exceedingly.
    2. to a small extent; somewhat: He is to a degree difficult to get along with.


  1. a stage in a scale of relative amount or intensitya high degree of competence
  2. an academic award conferred by a university or college on successful completion of a course or as an honorary distinction (honorary degree)
  3. any of three categories of seriousness of a burnSee burn 1 (def. 23)
  4. (in the US) any of the categories into which a crime is divided according to its seriousnessfirst-degree murder
  5. genealogy a step in a line of descent, used as a measure of the closeness of a blood relationship
  6. grammar any of the forms of an adjective used to indicate relative amount or intensity: in English they are positive, comparative, and superlative
  7. music any note of a diatonic scale relative to the other notes in that scaleD is the second degree of the scale of C major
  8. a unit of temperature on a specified scalethe normal body temperature of man is 36.8 degrees Celsius Symbol: ° See also Celsius scale, Fahrenheit scale
  9. 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 endsSymbol: ° See also minute 1, second 2 (def. 1a) Compare radian
    1. a unit of latitude or longitude, divided into 60 minutes, used to define points on the earth’s surface or on the celestial sphere
    2. a point or line defined by units of latitude and/or longitude

    Symbol: °

  10. a unit on any of several scales of measurement, as for alcohol content or specific gravitySymbol: °
  11. maths
    1. the highest power or the sum of the powers of any term in a polynomial or by itselfx 4 + x + 3 and xyz ² are of the fourth degree
    2. the greatest power of the highest order derivative in a differential equation
  12. obsolete a step; rung
  13. archaic a stage in social status or rank
  14. by degrees little by little; gradually
  15. to a degree somewhat; rather
  16. degrees of frost See frost (def. 3)

early 13c., from Old French degré (12c.) “a step (of a stair), pace, degree (of relationship), academic degree; rank, status, position,” said to be from Vulgar Latin *degradus “a step,” from Late Latin degredare, from Latin de- “down” (see de-) + gradus “step” (see grade (n.)).

Most modern senses date from Middle English, from notion of a hierarchy of steps. Meaning “a grade of crime” is 1670s; that of “a unit of temperature” is from 1727. The division of the circle into 360 degrees was known in Babylon and Egypt. It is perhaps from the daily motion of the sun through the zodiac in the course of a year.


  1. A unit of measure on a temperature scale.
  2. A division of a circle, equal to 1/360 of its circumference.
  3. A position or rank within a graded series.

  1. A unit division of a temperature scale.
    1. A unit for measuring an angle or an arc of a circle. One degree is 1360 of the circumference of a circle.
    2. This unit used to measure latitude or longitude on the Earth’s surface.
  2. The greatest sum of the exponents of the variables in a term of a polynomial or polynomial equation. For example, x3 + 2xy + x is of the third degree.

In geometry, a unit of measurement of angles, 1/360 of a circle. In physics, a unit of temperature (see Celsius, Fahrenheit (see also Fahrenheit), and Kelvin scale). A degree on the Fahrenheit scale is smaller than a degree on the Celsius or Kelvin scale. Degrees on the Celsius and Kelvin scales are the same size.

see by degrees; third degree; to some degree; to the nth degree.

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