It is also applicable to a process (as of natural development) in which the events occur in an order contrary to the usual or progressive; thus. an animal that passes from a more complex to a simpler and often degenerate state during development is said to manifest retrograde development.

I would appreciate it very much, if somebody possibly throw a light on this explanation, maybe through another vivid example or simplification, as I am wondering about its concept.

Extracted from Merriam Webster

2 Answers 2


Retrograde broadly means moving backward or becoming worse than what it was. Now, retrograde development becomes somewhat clear.

When we are talking in the context of an animal, retrograde development will be somewhat opposite to the natural development. It says contrary to the usual or progressive event which means it's not happen the way it naturally should.

Degeneration is a medical term which, in a layperson's language means, getting older i.e. declining in vitality or strength. When a living thing is in its development, degenerative changes are not expected. But as the paragraph reads, ..often degenerate state during development.... backs the meaning of 'retrograde development'.

In a very very simple language, 'retrograde development' in this context means the development happening in a way which is opposite to natural development.


Devolution, ODO, see Example Sentences of 1.1 and 1.3

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