Pronunciation: (di-grē'), [key]
1. any of a series of steps or stages, as in a process or course of action; a point in any scale.
2. a stage or point in or as if in progression or retrogression: We followed the degrees of her recovery with joy.
3. a stage in a scale of intensity or amount: a high degree of mastery.
4. extent, measure, scope, or the like: To what degree will he cooperate?
5. a stage in a scale of rank or station; relative standing in society, business, etc.: His uncouth behavior showed him to be a man of low degree.
6. academic title conferred by universities and colleges as an indication of the completion of a course of study, or as an honorary recognition of achievement.
7. a unit of measure, as of temperature or pressure, marked off on the scale of a measuring instrument: This thermometer shows a scale of degrees between only 20° and 40° C.
8. Geom.the 360th part of a complete angle or turn, often represented by the sign°, as in 45°, which is read as 45 degrees. Cf. angle1 (def. 1c).
9. the distinctive classification of a crime according to its gravity: murder in the first degree.
10. of the parallel formations of adjectives and adverbs used to express differences in quality, quantity, or intensity. In English, low and careful are the positive degree, lower and more careful are the comparative degree, lowest and most careful are the superlative degree.
11. Math.
a. the sum of the exponents of the variables in an algebraic term: x 3 and 2x2y are terms of degree three.
b. the term of highest degree of a given equation or polynomial: The expression 3x2y + y2 + 1 is of degree three.
c. the exponent of the derivative of highest order appearing in a given differential equation.
12. Music.a tone or step of the scale.
13. Astrol.any of the 360 equal divisions of the ecliptic measured counterclockwise from the vernal equinox. Each of the 12 signs of the zodiac contains 30 degrees.
14. a certain distance or remove in the line of descent, determining the proximity of relationship: a cousin of the second degree.
15. Archaic.a line or point on the earth or the celestial sphere, as defined by degrees of latitude.
16. Obs.a step, as of a stair.
17. by degrees, by easy stages; gradually: She grew angrier by degrees.
18. to a degree,
a. to a considerable extent; exceedingly.
b. to a small extent; somewhat: He is to a degree difficult to get along with.

Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Copyright © 1997, by Random House, Inc., on Infoplease.

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