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Word comparisons

Note 217 – Is it spelt descendent or descendant?

I saw this word written down today and had to look it up to see if there was also a spelling of descendent.  According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, descendant is a word that is frequently looked up; however, from my research today, it appears that no one has provided a comparison of these two spellings before.

I’ve also struggled to find anything with the spelling descendent apart from a mention in the Oxford Dictionaries online as explained below.   I’m therefore making the assumption that descendant is the correct spelling.  Please feel free to leave me a comment if you are aware of the spelling descendent.

The word descendant can be an adjective or a noun as follows:

Descendant (adjective)

The online Merriam-Webster dictionary gives two definitions:

  1. Moving or directed downwards
  2. Proceeding from an ancestor or source

Examples in sentences: 

  • e.g. It was obvious that the plant needed water; the descendant leaves gave it away.
  • e.g. Lucy was the descendant child of Marie.

Descendant (noun)

According to the Oxford Dictionaries online, the noun descendant means “person descended from a particular ancestor”. When using descendant in this context, they explain how common it is for people to use the spelling descendent.

 Merriam-Webster gives two definitions of the noun:

  1. One descended from another or from a common stock
  2. One deriving directly from a precursor or prototype

Examples in sentences: 

  • There are quite a few words that are descendants of other words.
  • Sally is a descendant of Tom and Marie. 

That’s it for today.  Hope you enjoyed today’s blog.

Until tomorrow…

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About Sandra Madeira

I am a full-time working mum with a passion for writing and inspiring others. Subjects I tend to blog about are life skills, parenting, decluttering, worklife balance, etc. At the moment I am on a decluttering mission creating space in my house, garden and mind. I have challenged myself to do at least ten minutes a day and write about it. Have a good day! Sandra Freelance Writer


6 thoughts on “Note 217 – Is it spelt descendent or descendant?

  1. Actually, here in the good old USA, descendant is the noun, descendent the adjective, although, as you pointed out, it can also be spelled descendant. So the correct answer is there is no correct answer on this side of the pond.


    Posted by Bruce Stambaugh | December 3, 2011, 10:00 pm
  2. My copy of the 2003 Merriam Webster dictionary shows descendent as being an alternative spelling to descendant for both the adjective and the noun. Perhaps our usage is tilting towards descendant, but it appears both are still acceptable spellings

    Posted by Rod Fraser | February 25, 2012, 3:18 pm
  3. Hey, first off, congrats on having one of the toughest job in the world- AND definitely one of the most meaningful- being a mother. Kudos to you, and all parents- definitely a labor of love.

    As for descendent/ant, here’s another ref that concurs with the above. I’d come across this in Encarta (now offline)- but here it is, thanks to the WayBackMachine (

    “Spelling Note”
    descendant or descendent? Do not confuse the spelling of descendant and descendent, which sound similar. Descendant is the only spelling of the noun, denoting somebody or something related to an ancestor, or something based on an earlier thing. Descendent is the usual spelling of the adjective, which means “going downward.”

    Encarta® World English Dictionary [North American Edition] © & (P)2009 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

    Posted by jim0peak | April 19, 2012, 12:49 am


  1. Pingback: Webster’s Favs! « Ralphie´s Portal - December 7, 2011

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