adjective sub·or·di·nate \sə-ˈbr-də-nət, -ˈbrd-nət\

: in a position of less power or authority than someone else

: less important than someone or something else

Full Definition of SUBORDINATE

:  placed in or occupying a lower class, rank, or position :  inferior <a subordinate officer>
:  submissive to or controlled by authority
a :  of, relating to, or constituting a clause that functions as a noun, adjective, or adverb
b :  subordinating
sub·or·di·nate·ly adverb
sub·or·di·nate·ness noun


  1. <his contention is that environment plays a subordinate role to heredity in determining what we become>
  2. About two-thirds of the way through, this nonsense comes to life for fifteen minutes when the point of view shifts to that of a subordinate character, an aging thug (well played by Laurence Fishburne) who is employed by the casino to spot card counters. —Richard Alleva, Commonweal, May 9, 2008


Middle English subordinat, from Medieval Latin subordinatus, past participle of subordinare to subordinate, from Latin sub- + ordinare to order — more at ordain
First Known Use: 15th century


noun sub·or·di·nate \sə-ˈbr-də-nət, -ˈbrd-nət\

: someone who has less power or authority than someone else : someone who is subordinate to someone else

Full Definition of SUBORDINATE

:  one who stands in order or rank below another :  one that is subordinate


  1. She leaves the day-to-day running of the firm to her subordinates.
  2. <subordinates do most of the actual creation of the famous designer's clothing designs>
  3. Case in point: the dismissal of advertising chief Julie Roehm, accused of having an affair with a subordinate (also fired) and taking freebies from an advertising agency (also fired) in violation of company policies. —Bill Saporito, Time, 12 Nov. 2007


(see 1subordinate)
First Known Use: 1640


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transitive verb sub·or·di·nate \sə-ˈbr-də-ˌnāt\

: to think of or treat (someone or something) as less important than someone or something else


Full Definition of SUBORDINATE

:  to make subject or subservient
:  to treat as of less value or importance <stylist … whose crystalline prose subordinates content to form — Susan Heath>
sub·or·di·na·tion \-ˌbr-də-ˈnā-shən\ noun
sub·or·di·na·tive \-ˈbr-də-ˌnā-tiv\ adjective


  1. <it is one of the lessons of history that more powerful civilizations often subordinate weaker ones>
  2. Clinton administration Trade Representative Mickey Kantor declared: The days when we could afford to subordinate our economic interests to foreign policy or defense concerns are long past. —Lawrence F. Kaplan, New Republic, 18 Mar. 2002


Medieval Latin subordinatus (see 1subordinate)
First Known Use: 1597


Next Word in the Dictionary: subordinatingPrevious Word in the Dictionary: subordinaryAll Words Near: subordinate
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