def·​er·​ence | \ ˈde-fə-rən(t)s How to pronounce deference (audio) , ˈdef-rən(t)s \

Definition of deference

: respect and esteem due a superior or an elder also : affected or ingratiating regard for another's wishes
in deference to
: in consideration of returned early in deference to her parents' wishes

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Choose the Right Synonym for deference

honor, homage, reverence, deference mean respect and esteem shown to another. honor may apply to the recognition of one's right to great respect or to any expression of such recognition. the nomination is an honor homage adds the implication of accompanying praise. paying homage to Shakespeare reverence implies profound respect mingled with love, devotion, or awe. great reverence for my father deference implies a yielding or submitting to another's judgment or preference out of respect or reverence. showed no deference to their elders

Did You Know?

The words deference and defer both derive from the Latin deferre, which means "to bring down" or "to carry away." At the same time you might also hear that defer traces to the Latin differre, which means "to postpone" or "to differ." Which root is right? Both. That's because English has two verbs, or homographs, spelled defer. One means "to submit or delegate to another" (as in "I defer to your greater expertise"). That's the one that is closely related to deference and that comes from deferre. The other means "to put off or delay" (as in "we decided to defer the decision until next month"); that second defer derives from differre.

Examples of deference in a Sentence

Deference to leaders and intolerance toward outsiders (and toward "enemies within") are hallmarks of tribalism … — Benjamin R. Barber, Atlantic, March 1992 In the 1980s, in deference to the neighborhoods, City Hall would attempt a counter-reformation of downtown, forbidding "Manhattanization." — Richard Rodriguez, Harper's, October 1990 She could have subtly appealed to the deference … she knew was still in there, encoded in their middle-aged hearts; she never did. — Peggy Noonan, New York Times Magazine, 16 Dec. 1990 A sense of deference to the upper class among whites made it possible, in Sproat's estimation, for white leaders to contain the white supremacists. — Robert L. Harris, Jr., American Historical Review, December 1987 Her relatives treat one another with deference. He is shown much deference by his colleagues.
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Recent Examples on the Web Holt treats each generation with deference and individuality but simultaneously blurs chronological lines often established by white scholars. Rachel King, Fortune, "10 books on American history that actually reflect the United States," 4 July 2020 Which—in deference to the Demon—is probably why the Super Stock makes 1 hp less than the 808-hp Demon. Maxwell B. Mortimer, Car and Driver, "807-HP Dodge Challenger SRT Super Stock Is Made for the Drag Strip," 2 July 2020 Thomas seemed to take a shot at that deference to precedent by Roberts. Fox News, "Thomas tears into abortion precedent, says Roe v. Wade should fall in dissent on Louisiana case," 29 June 2020 His actions have abused the baseline deference and respect typically accorded the platform of the presidency by adjacent public and private institutions. Jonathan Zittrain, The Atlantic, "Twitter’s Least-Bad Option for Dealing With Donald Trump," 26 June 2020 But with Biden taking a far more cautious approach in deference to public health concerns, Trump will be the only presidential candidate surrounded by adoring throngs, and an image like that can be invaluable. Todd J. Gillman, Dallas News, "Workers at Trump’s Tulsa rally test positive for COVID-19, as campaign reboot promises cheers, clashes and contagion," 20 June 2020 And finally, the bow conveys a certain deference, respect and humility, qualities sorely lacking in today’s culture. WSJ, "Bowing Should Replace the Virus-Laden Handshake Greeting," 19 June 2020 The Trump administration is taking a soft-spoken approach in part out of deference, observers say, to India’s sensitivity about being perceived as a U.S. proxy in this dispute. Joel Gehrke, Washington Examiner, "Border violence could spur India to help US counter China," 18 June 2020 In an alternate universe, Lam might have been remembered as a competent, if not inspiring, leader whose deference to Beijing marked a continuation of her predecessors’ positions. Timothy Mclaughlin, The Atlantic, "A Stubborn Leader, a Broken System," 18 June 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'deference.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of deference

1660, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for deference

borrowed from French déférence, going back to Middle French deference "act of submitting," from deferer "to submit to another, defer entry 2" + -ence -ence

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Time Traveler for deference

Time Traveler

The first known use of deference was in 1660

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Last Updated

15 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Deference.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for deference


How to pronounce deference (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of deference

formal : a way of behaving that shows respect for someone or something


def·​er·​ence | \ ˈde-fə-rəns How to pronounce deference (audio) , ˈde-frəns \

Kids Definition of deference

: respect and consideration for the wishes of another

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