Is there a word for "put something to a lower form/level/grade (than it should be)"?

All I can think of are

  • reduce
  • cast something low

But I would like to assert the sense that the object deserves more recognition or value.

For example, to a friend who describes humans as mere animals whose behavior is dictated and predicted by biological and evolutionary principles,

You reduce the human race to a mere conglomerate of biological and evolutionary rules.

in the sense that the statement puts something in a lower position, not giving its full value.

  • You really need to indicate whether you are looking for an act of assessment ('undervalue') (which only has secondary effects on the situation) or a speech act (downgrade / demote) which is an executive act. Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 7:15
  • In the context provided, reduce is exactly the correct word.
    – barbecue
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 19:24

14 Answers 14


You could consider using the verb degrade which means:

Lower the character or quality of

[Oxford Online Dictionary]

Slavery was a known practice which was used in the world to degrade human beings to the level of commodity and animals.

[The Historian 2007]


"Demote" might be appropriate.

Move (someone) to a lower position or rank, usually as a punishment: ‘the head of the army was demoted to deputy defence secretary’.

(Oxford On-Line Dictionary) http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/demote

  • 1
    @ErikE What if the source is a dictionary, which typically doesn't say who wrote which definitions?
    – anon
    Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 19:37
  • 1
    @ErikE It didn't come from any particular source, but just from my knowledge as a mature native speaker of BrE. Anyone (including the OP) is free to look it up themselves in any dictionary to verify it's meaning. Please don't nit-pick.
    – BillJ
    Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 19:53
  • @ ErikEHave edited my post with a reference and link to a reliable source.
    – BillJ
    Commented Dec 13, 2015 at 9:22
  • @BillJ Looks far better than before. +1) :-)
    – user140086
    Commented Dec 13, 2015 at 12:33
  • Comments edited and voted.
    – ErikE
    Commented Dec 13, 2015 at 18:15

I would suggest the word relegate.


To consign to an inferior or obscure place, rank, category, or condition: an artist's work that is now relegated to storerooms; a group that has been relegated to the status of second-class citizens.




Consider, debase.

  1. to reduce in quality or value.

  2. to lower in rank or dignity.

Random House



criticize unfairly; disparage. "there is a tendency to denigrate the poor"

  • This was my first thought.
    – delliottg
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 19:31
  • Hi kyle, welcome to EL&U. If your words are a quote, the site rules require a link to the source (if found online) and the original author's name in plain text (or link text, not hidden behind the link). Using an official definition of the word would be an improvement to your answer.
    – ErikE
    Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 1:02

The idiomatic term is undervalue.

From ODO:

undervalue V [WITH OBJECT] (often as adjective undervalued)

1 Rate (something) insufficiently highly; fail to appreciate: the skills of the housewife remain undervalued in society

  • I feel that this and "denigrate" are the only current answers whose connotations meet the OPs condition of the "lowering" being an undeserved, inappropriate or unfair act.
    – psicopoo
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 4:01

Consider belittle and depreciate

  1. lower the value of something
  2. lose in value
  • Hi @Huang, welcome to ELU. Your answer would be improved if you added a citation and link for where you got your definition from.
    – AndyT
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 17:32
  • Thank you for your mention! I'll improve my answers later on:) Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 19:30

Consider to lower:

to lower: To reduce in value, degree, or quality.


Humans are lowered to the level of animals, and as you eat your holiday turkey there is no difference in eating your own children.


Another alternative is to bring down:

bring down: to reduce the rate, level, or amount of something

(Macmillan Dictionary)

declaring humans and animals equal – the goal is not to elevate animals but to bring humans down to the level of animals



I like "diminish".


  1. to make or cause to seem smaller, less, less important, etc.; lessen; reduce.

  2. to detract from the authority, honor, stature, or reputation of; disparage.


  • 1
    It is not wrong to include supporting evidence in your answer rather than just a link. Due to link rot and just because we want questions and answers to stand on their own, it's actually preferred. And as you have done it is important to credit your sources.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 22:42

The word "devolve" comes to mind. As in, "Political discussion has devolved on both ends of the political spectrum in recent years." I'm quoting myself FWIW. "The lamentable change is from the best. The worst returns to laughter." - Shakespeare - King Lear


Maybe degrade... Or downgrade.

Depending on your context one of these option may be better than the other. Both carry the connotation of being relegated to a lower level or grade, but both are not equal in tone.

Degrade holds a negative connotation and implies that the action had a malicious intent. Downgrade has a more utilitarian tone, and implies less emotional motivation for the action.

Your two suggestion feel a little more emotionally charged to me, so maybe degrade would be the better option of the two.

  • Added as a comment - as I think it suits, but please add a reference to your answer : Downgrade verb ˈdaʊnɡreɪd,daʊnˈɡreɪd/ 1. reduce to a lower grade, rank, or level of importance.
    – SeanR
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 10:25
  • Please explain why these words are good choices. Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 15:09

Although not as unambiguous as Edwin Ashworth’s answer (undervalue), ODO’s first definition of devalue would work in your example

("verb [with object] 1Reduce or underestimate the worth or importance of: I resent the way people seem to devalue my achievement"):

You devalue [the] human race to a mere conglomerate of biological and evolutionary rules.


"Dumb down."

Andy: The kids had a hard time understanding the old textbooks.
Beth: What was the books' reading level?
Andy: They scored a 12 on the Flesch-Kincaid index.
Beth: No wonder we got the dumbed-down books.
Andy: Yeah, the new ones only scored a 5 on the Flesch-Kincaid index.
Beth: Even our kids should be able to understand them. Let's hope they don't get bored.

  • 1
    "Dumb-down" and "water-down" both do have the meaning of "reduce in complexity" but do not fit the OP's context.
    – cobaltduck
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 20:01

Maybe a simple word such as 'revert' would suffice?

  • 2
    Maybe, but please explain why you think so. Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 23:25

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