transitive verb de·pre·cat·ed
- To express disapproval of; deplore.
- To belittle; depreciate.
- Computer Science To mark (a component of a software standard) as obsolete to warn against its use in the future so that it may be phased out.
Origin: Latin dēprecārī, dēprecāt-, to ward off by prayer
Origin: : dē-, de-
Origin: + precārī, to pray; see prek- in Indo-European roots
Related Forms:Usage Note: Deprecate
originally meant “to pray in order to ward off something, ward off by prayer.” Perhaps because the occasion of such prayers was invariably one of dread, the word developed the more general meaning of disapproval, as in this quotation from Frederick Douglass, “Those who profess to favor freedom, yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground.”
From here it was a small step to add the meaning “to make little of, disparage,” what was once the proper meaning of depreciate.
This meaning of depreciate
appears to have been overwhelmed by the word's use in the world of finances, where it means “to diminish (or cause to diminish) in price or value.” In similar fashion, the “disparage” sense of deprecate
may be driving out the word's other uses. In our 2002 survey, only 50 percent of the Usage Panel accepted deprecate
when it meant “to express disapproval of” in the sentence He advocates a well-designed program of behavior modification and deprecates the early use of medication to address behavioral problems.
Moreover, a similar example in the same survey elicited the same split in opinions among Panelists: He acknowledged that some students had been wronged by the board's handling of the matter and deprecated the board's decision to intervene.
It seems clear, then, that the Panel has very mixed feelings about the use of deprecate
to mean “disapprove of.” But a great majority of Panelists accept deprecate
when used to mean “make little of, disparage.” Fully 78 percent accepted the example He deprecated his own contribution to the success of the project, claiming that others had done just as much.
It may be that the widespread use of the word in the compound adjective self-deprecating
has helped bolster this use of the verb.