When would you use each? I understand "condescend" has another meaning of "voluntarily lower oneself" (Babylon definition). But in the "look upon other" meaning, which would you prefer in which situation?

  • 2
    Psalm 113:6 says: 6 He is condescending to look on heaven and earth," Some translations render condescending as "humbled". It's a good example of the positive meaning of condescending that you mentioned.
    – OneProton
    Commented Nov 2, 2010 at 16:16
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    "What's all this water on the outside of my glass?" "Oh, that's just condescension. Don't trouble your pretty little head about it."
    – MT_Head
    Commented May 14, 2016 at 19:07

3 Answers 3


There is something of a circular definition at work here: to patronise someone is to behave condescendingly toward them, and to condescend is to behave in an arrogant manner by patronising those whom you consider inferior. I'd say they're fully denotationally equivalent. Connotation-wise, however, there is a slight difference: "patronising" implies behaving as a parent does toward a child, while I think "condescending" is more general.

  • This is pretty much how I felt about both words, thank you!
    – JohnoBoy
    Commented Nov 2, 2010 at 14:58

Patronize and condescend both denote superiority but are slightly different. To patronize someone could be used to denote a feeling of superiority to someone that isn't overt. Condescension on the other hand is usually overt.

  • What would overt mean though?
    – harryy000
    Commented Apr 1, 2017 at 11:14

To condescend is to overtly look down upon people. Patronizing is a little more subtle. For example, people patronize black people and other minorities but it's disguised as "trying to help" them.

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