Webster 1913 Edition



, OF.
, fr. LL.
. See
A step, stair, or staircase.
By ladders, or else by
Rom. of R.
One of a series of progressive steps upward or downward, in quality, rank, acquirement, and the like; a stage in progression; grade; gradation;
of vice and virtue; to advance by slow
of comparison.
The point or step of progression to which a person has arrived; rank or station in life; position.
“A dame of high degree.”
“A knight is your degree.”
“Lord or lady of high degree.”
Measure of advancement; quality; extent;
as, tastes differ in kind as well as in
of excellence which proclaims genius, is different in different times and different places.
Sir. J. Reynolds.
☞ In the United States diplomas are usually given as the evidence of a degree conferred. In the humanities the first degree is that of
bachelor of arts
(B. A. or A. B.); the second that of
master of arts
(M. A. or A. M.). The degree of bachelor (of arts, science, divinity, law, etc.) is conferred upon those who complete a prescribed course of undergraduate study. The first degree in medicine is that of
doctor of medicine
(M. D.). The degrees of master and doctor are also conferred, in course, upon those who have completed certain prescribed postgraduate studies, as
doctor of philosophy
(Ph. D.); the degree of doctor is also conferred as a complimentary recognition of eminent services in science or letters, or for public services or distinction (as
doctor of laws
(LL. D.) or
doctor of divinity
(D. D.), when they are called
honorary degrees
The youth attained his bachelor’s
, and left the university.
A certain distance or remove in the line of descent, determining the proximity of blood; one remove in the chain of relationship;
as, a relation in the third or fourth
In the 11th century an opinion began to gain ground in Italy, that third cousins might marry, being in the seventh
according to the civil law.
Three figures taken together in numeration; thus, 140 is one degree, 222,140 two degrees.
State as indicated by sum of exponents; more particularly, the degree of a term is indicated by the sum of the exponents of its literal factors; thus,
is a term of the sixth degree. The degree of a power, or radical, is denoted by its index, that of an equation by the greatest sum of the exponents of the unknown quantities in any term; thus,
+ bx
= c
, and
+ nyx = p
, are both equations of the fourth degree.
A 360th part of the circumference of a circle, which part is taken as the principal unit of measure for arcs and angles. The degree is divided into 60 minutes and the minute into 60 seconds.
A division, space, or interval, marked on a mathematical or other instrument, as on a thermometer.
A line or space of the staff.
☞ The short lines and their spaces are added degrees.
Accumulation of degrees
(Eng. Univ.)
See under
By degrees
step by step; by little and little; by moderate advances.
“I'll leave it by degrees.”
Degree of a curve
Degree of a surface
the number which expresses the degree of the equation of the curve or surface in rectilinear coordinates. A straight line will, in general, meet the curve or surface in a number of points equal to the degree of the curve or surface and no more.
Degree of latitude
on the earth, the distance on a meridian between two parallels of latitude whose latitudes differ from each other by one degree. This distance is not the same on different parts of a meridian, on account of the flattened figure of the earth, being 68.702 statute miles at the equator, and 69.396 at the poles.
Degree of longitude
the distance on a parallel of latitude between two meridians that make an angle of one degree with each other at the poles – a distance which varies as the cosine of the latitude, being at the equator 69.16 statute miles.
To a degree
to an extreme; exceedingly;
as, mendacious
to a degree
It has been said that Scotsmen . . . are . . . grave
to a degree
on occasions when races more favored by nature are gladsome to excess.
Prof. Wilson.

Webster 1828 Edition



, n.
A step; a distinct portion of space of indefinite extent; a space in progression; as, the army gained the hill by degrees; a balloon rises or descends by slow degrees; and figuratively, we advance in knowledge by slow degrees. Men are yet in the first degree of improvement. It should be their aim to attain to the furthest degree, or the highest degree. There are degrees of vice and virtue.
A step or portion of progression, in elevation, quality, dignity or rank; as a man of great degree.
We speak of men of high degree, or of low degree; of superior or inferior degree. It is supposed there are different degrees or orders of angels.
They purchase to themselves a good degree. 1 Tim. 3.
In genealogy, a certain distance or remove in the line of descent, determining the proximity of blood; as a relation in the third or fourth degree.
Measure; extent. The light is intense to a degree that is intolerable. We suffer an extreme degree of heat or cold.
In geometry, a division of a circle, including a three hundred and sixtieth part of its circumference. Hence a degree of latitude is the 360th part of the earths surface north or south of the equator, and a degree of longitude, the same part of the surface east or west of any given meridian.
In music, an interval of sound, marked by a line on the scale.
In arithmetic, a degree consists of three figures; thus, 270, 360, compose two degrees.
A division, space or interval, marked on a mathematical or other instrument; as on a thermometer, or barometer.
In colleges and universities, a mark of distinction conferred on students, as a testimony of their proficiency in arts and sciences; giving them a kind of rank, and entitling them to certain privileges. This is usually evidenced by a diploma. Degrees are conferred pro meritis on the alumni of a college; or they are honorary tokens of respect, conferred on strangers of distinguished reputation. The first degree is that of Bachelor of Arts; the second, that of Master of Arts. Honorary degrees are those of Doctor of Divinity, Doctor of Laws, &c. Physicians also receive the degree of Doctor of Medicine.
By degrees, step by step; gradually; by little and little; by moderate advances. Frequent drinking forms by degrees a confirmed habit of intemperance.

Definition 2022



See also: dégréé and dégrée



degree (plural degrees)

  1. (obsolete outside heraldry) A step on a set of stairs; the rung of a ladder. [from 13th c.]
  2. An individual step, or stage, in any process or scale of values. [from 13th c.]
  3. A stage of rank or privilege; social standing. [from 13th c.]
    • 1526, William Tyndale, trans. Bible, Luke XX:
      Master, we knowe that thou sayest, and teachest ryght, nether considerest thou eny mannes degre, but techest the waye of god truely.
  4. (genealogy) A ‘step’ in genealogical descent. [from 14th c.]
    • 2002, Colin Jones, The Great Nation, Penguin 2003, page 140:
      Louis created the École militaire in Paris in 1751, in which 500 scholarships were designated for noblemen able to prove four degrees of noble status.
  5. (now rare) One's relative state or experience; way, manner. [from 14th c.]
    • 1851, Herman Melville, Moby-Dick:
      If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.
  6. The amount that an entity possesses a certain property; relative intensity, extent. [from 14th c.]
    • 1898, Winston Churchill, chapter 1, in The Celebrity:
      In the old days, to my commonplace and unobserving mind, he gave no evidences of genius whatsoever. He never read me any of his manuscripts, [], and therefore my lack of detection of his promise may in some degree be pardoned.
    To what degree do the two accounts of the accident concur?
  7. A stage of proficiency or qualification in a course of study, now especially an award bestowed by a university or, in some countries, a college, as a certification of academic achievement. (In the United States, can include secondary schools.) [from 14th c.]
    She has two bachelor's degrees and is studying towards a master's degree.
  8. (geometry) A unit of measurement of angle equal to 1/360 of a circle's circumference. [from 14th c.]
    A right angle is a ninety degree angle.
    Most humans have a field of vision of almost 180 degrees.
  9. (physics) A unit of measurement of temperature on any of several scales, such as Celsius or Fahrenheit. [from 18th c.]
    90 degrees Fahrenheit is equivalent to 32.2 degrees Celsius.
    Water boils at 100 degrees Celsius.
  10. (mathematics) The sum of the exponents of a term; the order of a polynomial. [from 18th c.]
  11. (graph theory) The number of edges that a vertex takes part in; a valency.
  12. (logic) The number of logical connectives in a formula.
  13. (surveying) The curvature of a circular arc, expressed as the angle subtended by a fixed length of arc or chord.


  • (unit of angle): °
  • (unit of temperature): °

Derived terms

Coordinate terms

Usage notes

  • A person who is engaged in a course of study leading to the earning of a degree can be described (in the present progressive tense) as "doing a degree" in British English, and as "getting a degree" in American English. For example, in American English, "She is currently getting her master's degree at State University." In British English, "I am still confused about when to use 'an' instead of 'a'. Is it an hour or a hour, and if someone is doing a master's degree in arts, is it an MA or a MA?" (Ask Oxford.Com - Ask the Experts - Frequently Asked Questions (Grammar)).



Most common English words before 1923: happiness · religion · dress · #916: degree · spoken · stop · moral