Descendant vs. descendent

Descendant is both an adjective (meaning either moving downward or descending from an ancestor) and a noun (for someone who descends from someone else). Descendent is a less common variant used indiscriminately in place of descendant in all its uses.


There is a traditional distinction between the two forms, and some English reference books still give it credence. It is that descendent is the adjective and descendant the noun, the logical basis for this being that the older adjective should follow the Latin root and the derivative noun should follow the later French form. But while some very careful writers still honor this distinction, it is not borne out in broader usage. For the most part, the two words are used interchangeably, and descendant is the preferred spelling.


Check Your Text


  1. The reason people don’t find it useful is because they simply don’t know the difference.

  2. Thank you for this post. I found it when I Googled “descendent”. Google said, “Did you mean descendant?” but it still displayed a link to your post among the top search results ( was above you, Wikipedia below).

  3. GoTimothy says:

     Was wondering why one spell checker said descendent was spelled wrong, When Dragon Dictate is the one who spelled it wrong.

    • usefulmusic says:

      In your sentences ‘wrong’ is spelled wrongly both times.
      “It is the wrong spelling” Wrong is an adjective here. “It is spelled wrongly”. Wrongly is an adverb in this case.

      • Sorry, but you are just plain wrong! You wrongly state that “wrong” is an adjective here. Nope. Wrong is also an adverb! Look it up so you don’t wrongly accuse someone of using it wrong. ;-)

        • usefulmusic says:

          Well, according to my view on “wrong” and “wrongly” – except for your final “wrong”- your reply was a perfect example of the distinction between “wrong” the adjective and “wrongly” the adverb. And you answered my comment very witty. ;–) [I have a big nose.]

  4. Geoffrey says:

    Not dead! I still use it.

  5. Margaret says:

    Can someone please supply two sentences where each spelling is used?

    • “The creature’s movement was descendent as it crawled slowly toward the floor.” vs. “The heir was required to be a direct descendant of the deceased royalty in order to inherit the throne.”

  6. Bill Jarett says:

    The English language is following Latin’s path to the vulgate with the lack for respect for proper grammar in this 21 century glib internet World.

  7. Fuck you all.
    That’s in the present tense.

  8. Feet2Fire says:

    Hello. Believe you have used indiscriminately when it should be indiscriminantly.

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