The Meaning of Digress: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of digress? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word digress, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word digress mean?

According to Merriam-Webster Unabridged English Dictionary and Cambridge Dictionary, the word digress (pronounced daɪˈɡrɛs) is an intransitive verb that means to move away or veer away from the current subject or topic of conversation or writing. This is often used in speech and writing when a speaker or writer goes off on a tangent or off course in some way. This person could veer from the main subject or main topic or sidetrack onto another subject that does not follow the course of argument. When the speaker or writer wishes to return to their main point, they could say, “But I digress.” Then, the speaker or writer would venture back to their main point. This word can be positive, negative, or neutral in connotation. For example, if someone criticized an essay for digressing a lot, this would be negative. However, if the digression was for a good reason and was then brought back around in order to strengthen a point, this could be considered positive. Try using this word of the day in a sentence today!

Numerous different languages also contain words that mean digress. You may notice that some of these words look or sound similar to each other. These cognates are often formed when two words are of a similar origin. For example, the romance languages have origins in Lstin, so many of these languages contain words that look and sound alike. This list of translations for the word digress is provided by Word Sense.

  • German: abgehen‎, abschweifen‎, ausschweifen‎
  • Russian: отклоня́ться‎, отвлекаться‎
  • Slovene: kreniti vstran‎, oddaljiti se‎ (pf)
  • Maori: kāwekaweka‎
  • Dutch: afdwalen‎
  • French: s’écarter‎, dévier‎
  • Finnish: eksyä‎ (aiheesta), poiketa‎ (aiheesta)
  • Roman: zastraniti‎, odstupiti‎, skrenuti‎
  • Catalan: desviar-se‎
  • Italian: divagare‎
  • Scottish Gaelic: rach a thaobh‎
  • Spanish: desviarse‎
  • Bulgarian: отклонявам се‎
  • Portuguese: divagar‎
  • Cyrillic: застранити‎, одступити‎, скренути‎
  • Czech: odbíhat‎
  • Romanian: devia‎

How can the word digress be used in a sentence?

The word digress can be used in many different contexts and situations, and is a very versatile, commonly used word. In this example, Ryan’s teacher is giving him notes on his speech to the class.

Mr. Reid: Ryan, this was supposed to be a persuasive speech.

Ryan: I did persuade them!

Mr. Reid: You were supposed to persuade them for or against uniforms. Not persuade them to buy candy that you’re reselling. You completely digressed from the topic halfway through.

Ryan: But I closed the sales!

Mr. Reid: That is not the point, and that was not the assignment. You will re-present an actual persuasive essay on the given topic to the class tomorrow, or I will have to fail you. Is that abundantly clear?

Ryah: Yes, sir… This might be off topic, but you seem a little hungry. Want to buy a candy bar?

Here, Mr. Reid uses the word digress to refer to Ryan going off-topic.

What is the origin of the word digress?

According to Etymonline, the word digress has been used since the 1520s to refer to something that turns away or goes off course. This comes from the Latin digressus, which is the past participle of digredi, a Latin verb meaning to go aside or deviate. This word comes from the prefix dis meaning apart or aside and the root gradi meaning to step or go. Gradi comes from the Proto-Indo-European root gredh meaning to walk or go. There is also some evidence pointing to the fact that the word digress could simply be a back-formation from the word digression. Related words to digress include digressed, digressing, and digresser. 

What are synonyms and antonyms for the word digress?

There are a plethora of words and phrases that one can use in place of the word digress. These are called synonyms, which are words and phrases that have a similar or the same meaning as another given word or phrase. Synonyms are useful to know because they can assist in helping avoid repeat oneself while simultaneously expanding a person’s vocabulary. This list of synonyms for the word digress is provided by Thesaurus.

  • divagate
  • turn aside
  • roam
  • go off on a tangent
  • be diffuse
  • ramble
  • circumlocute
  • excurse
  • swerve
  • long way
  • wander away
  • drift
  • wander
  • go by way of
  • aberrate
  • stray
  • veer
  • get sidetracked
  • get off the subject
  • depart
  • get off the point
  • deviate
  • beat about the bush
  • meander

There are also a number of different words that have the opposite meaning as the word digress. These are called antonyms. Antonyms are also useful eEnglish grammatical devices to know if you are looking to expand your vocabulary or knowledge of the English language. This list of antonyms for the word digress is also provided by Thesaurus.

  • hang in
  • procrastinate
  • linger
  • abide
  • outstay
  • stop
  • pause
  • tarry
  • stay
  • hold the fort
  • wait
  • hang about
  • bide
  • dally
  • continue
  • halt
  • roost
  • stick around
  • sojourn
  • stand
  • sit tight
  • reside
  • remain
  • perch
  • hang around
  • delay
  • stay put
  • endure
  • nest
  • hover
  • stay out
  • bunk
  • squat
  • reprieve
  • lag
  • hang
  • sweat it out
  • hang out
  • last
  • establish oneself
  • sweat
  • put down roots
  • respite
  • settle
  • loiter

Overall, the word digress is an intransitive verb that means to stray or veer from a point that someone is trying to make in speech or in writing. This can often refer to a person getting sidetracked. This word is Latin in origin, and can be positive, negative, ro neutral in tone or connotation.

Sources:

  1. https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/digress
  2. https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/stay
  3. https://www.wordsense.eu/digress/#:~:text=(intransitive)%20To%20step%20or%20turn,argument%2C%20in%20writing%20or%20speaking.&text=Moreover%20she%20beginneth%20to%20digress%20in%20latitude. https://www.etymonline.com/word/digress 
  4. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/digress
  5. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/digress