Make Your Editor Cry: Decent vs. Descent vs. Dissent

Make Your Editor Cry: Decent vs. Descent vs. Dissent

The adjective decent means sufficient or acceptable. The local diner you like to frequent may not serve a four-star breakfast, but it probably has decent food. Decent, pronounced “DEE-sent,” means “socially acceptable.” It’s also an old fashioned way to say “polite.” These days if you ask someone if she’s decent, you probably don’t care if she went to charm school, you’re just wondering if she’s dressed so you can come in. Decent can also mean good but not great.

He's a decent guy, but doesn't to to church very often.

He just wants to earn a decent day's wage for a good day's work.

If you’re on your way down, you’re making a descent, whether you’re a passenger in an airplane that’s landing, or tumbling down a mountainside. Descent, pronounced “dih-SENT,” means the act of moving downward, either physically or socially, like an evil character’s descent into the underworld, or a psychopath’s descent into insanity, or even your descent down the stairs into the basement.

The worst part of making the summit were the several long descents that followed.

Descent can also refer to a person’s cultural background. Think about going down a heirarchy like a family tree.

The four women, all U.S. citizens of Somali descent, were charged with various counts of terrorist activities.

Finally, to dissent is to publicly disagree with an official opinion or decision. Dissent is also a noun referring to public disagreement. The word dissent, also pronounced “dih-SENT” is to pipe up against popular opinion. It can refer to an opinion that differs from an official or popularly held one.To dissent is to voice such an opinion. There are shades of meaning, but it always means to go against the grain.

Totalitarian despots like Xi Jinping of China or Vladimir Putin of Russia rarely face public dissent in their edicts.

In summary: decent is fine as long as you’re dressed, descent means to go down down down, and dissent is when your opinion is opposed to those of others.


Don't come in. I'm not decent.

She makes a decent casserole.

We lost half of our gear on the decsent into the valley.

The helicopter lost power during its decsent about fifty feet above the landing pad.

Christians are often the voice of dissent when it comes to abortion.

She argued in her dissent that Congress had exceeded its authority.

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