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Abase vs. Debase: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Updated on September 30, 2023
Abase means to belittle or degrade someone, lowering their rank or status. Debase refers to reducing the quality or moral character of someone or something, often through corruption.

Key Differences

Abase is a verb that primarily denotes the act of lowering or reducing one’s status, dignity, or rank, reflecting the humiliation or reduction in esteem of an individual. Debase, however, is another verb that specifically conveys the reduction of the quality or moral character of someone or something, often by adulteration. Abase generally infers a lowering in rank or status, while debase suggests a fall in moral or ethical standards.
Abase focuses on diminishing the self-worth or esteem of a person, often invoking a sense of shame or humility. Debase is more associated with corrupting or contaminating the purity or integrity of something, which can be moral, aesthetic, or physical in nature. Therefore, abase often deals with personal feelings and perceptions, whereas debase is concerned with intrinsic value and morality.
The term abase usually is more concerned with social and hierarchical aspects, implying the lowering of someone in the eyes of others or oneself. In contrast, debase frequently applies to the value, essence, or substance of something or someone, indicating a deterioration or corruption of its inherent quality or moral character.
Finally, while abase generally impacts the subject’s esteem or position within a specific context or environment, debase typically affects the inherent value or ethical standing of the subject. Abase usually involves a reduction in dignity or self-worth, and debase often leads to a decrease in moral or ethical standards.

Comparison Chart


Rank or status of an individual
Quality or moral character


Typically applied to persons
Can be applied to persons or things


Implies humiliation or reduction in esteem
Suggests corruption or adulteration

Effect on Subject

Affects esteem or position
Affects inherent value or morality

Nature of Reduction

Social or hierarchical
Moral, aesthetic, or physical

Abase and Debase Definitions


Abase: To cause to feel shame, humiliated, or unworthy.
His public insults were intended to abase his rival.


Debase: To impair the purity or strength of something.
The use of cheap materials debases the overall quality of the product.


Abase: To lower in rank, dignity, or esteem.
He abased himself before the king, hoping for mercy.


Debase: To corrupt or adulterate.
Adding water to the wine will debase it.


Abase: To humble oneself.
She abased herself in the face of the accusations.


Debase: To degrade or lower in status or dignity.
His actions debased the honorable title he held.


Abase: To reduce the value or quality of something.
The scandal abased his reputation within the community.


Debase: To reduce the quality or value of something.
Counterfeiters debase the value of currency.


Abase: To degrade or demean someone.
The tyrant sought to abase his subjects through constant criticism.


Debase: To lower in moral character or virtue.
Dishonest actions will debase one’s character.


To lower in rank, prestige, or esteem.


To lower in character, quality, or value; degrade.


(transitive) To lower, as in condition in life, office, rank, etc., so as to cause pain or hurt feelings; to degrade, to depress, to humble, to humiliate.


(transitive) To lower in character, quality, or value; to degrade.


To lower physically; to depress; to cast or throw down; to stoop.
To abase the eye


To lower in position or rank.


To lower in value, in particular by altering the content of alloys in coins; to debase.


(transitive) To lower the value of (a currency) by reducing the amount of valuable metal in the coins.


To lower or depress; to throw or cast down; as, to abase the eye.
Saying so, he abased his lance.


To reduce from a higher to a lower state or grade of worth, dignity, purity, station, etc.; to degrade; to lower; to deteriorate; to abase; as, to debase the character by crime; to debase the mind by frivolity; to debase style by vulgar words.
The coin which was adulterated and debased.
It is a kind of taking God's name in vain to debase religion with such frivolous disputes.
And to debase the sons, exalts the sires.


To cast down or reduce low or lower, as in rank, office, condition in life, or estimation of worthiness; to depress; to humble; to degrade.
Whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased.


Corrupt morally or by intemperance or sensuality;
Debauch the young people with wine and women
Socrates was accused of corrupting young men
Do school counselors subvert young children?
Corrupt the morals


Cause to feel shame; hurt the pride of;
He humiliated his colleague by criticising him in front of the boss


Lower in value by increasing the base-metal content


Corrupt, debase, or make impure by adding a foreign or inferior substance; often by replacing valuable ingredients with inferior ones;
Adulterate liquor


Can debase apply to moral character?

Absolutely, debase often refers to a reduction in moral character or virtue.

Is abase typically used to describe a lowering in dignity?

Yes, abase is used to describe a lowering in rank, dignity, or esteem, often involving humiliation.

Is debase concerned more with intrinsic value?

Yes, debase is more concerned with the reduction of intrinsic value, quality, or morality.

Is the effect of abasing always visible to others?

Not necessarily, abase can affect one’s self-perception and may not always be visible to others.

Does abase always imply a sense of shame?

Often, abase does imply a sense of shame, humiliation, or unworthiness in the person being abased.

What does abase primarily denote?

Abase primarily denotes the lowering or reducing of one’s status, dignity, or rank.

Can abase be used to refer to self-humiliation?

Yes, one can abase oneself, meaning to lower oneself in dignity or esteem.

Does debase always refer to a lowering in moral character?

While often used to refer to lowering in moral character, debase can also refer to a reduction in quality or value.

Can the term debase be applied to aesthetic values?

Yes, debase can be used to describe the reduction in aesthetic values or artistic qualities.

Can debase be used to refer to the adulteration of things?

Yes, debase can refer to the corruption or adulteration of things as well as moral character.

Can debase imply a physical adulteration of substances?

Yes, debase can imply a physical adulteration or contamination of substances.

Can abase apply to non-human subjects?

Abase is generally used for human subjects, referring to the lowering of status or dignity.

Does abase focus more on hierarchical reduction?

Yes, abase often implies a hierarchical or social reduction in rank or status.

Does debase suggest a deterioration of inherent qualities?

Yes, debase often suggests a deterioration or corruption of inherent qualities.

Can abase and debase be used interchangeably?

While they have similarities, they are not fully interchangeable due to differences in focus, implications, and usage.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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