def·​er·​en·​tial ˌde-fə-ˈren-chəl How to pronounce deferential (audio)
: showing or expressing respect and high regard due a superior or an elder : showing or expressing deference
listened with deferential attention to his grandfather
deferential to the judge's decision
deferentially adverb

Example Sentences

the man had the deferential attitude of someone who had been a servant his entire life
Recent Examples on the Web Sitting upright, with his arms crossed before him, Mr. Santos, 34, was polite and deferential, cutting a familiar figure in his trademark outfit of sweater beneath a navy blazer. Michael Gold, New York Times, 10 May 2023 Encouragement to be less deferential came from James and Davis. Dylan Hernández, Los Angeles Times, 16 Apr. 2023 The revelations in the Dominion case were just the tip of the iceberg; had the trial continued as planned, more details about the inner workings of Fox may have been revealed Carlson’s departure follows a series of incredibly deferential interviews to both Donald Trump and Elon Musk. Prem Thakker, The New Republic, 24 Apr. 2023 Though Gettr’s funding sources remained opaque to most employees, Miller and other executives were deferential to Guo’s representatives and concerned about his opinions, the ex-employees said. Joseph Menn, Washington Post, 26 Mar. 2023 Unfortunately, the Biden administration remains far too deferential to the WHO and places too much faith in the organization's ability to manage an investigation that will be any more thorough or, more importantly, independent of the influence of China's government. Lanhee J. Chen, CNN, 27 May 2021 Although soft-spoken and deferential, Evander’s passion shines through. oregonlive, 14 Feb. 2023 At first, both sides were deferential. Steve Coll, The New Yorker, 10 Dec. 2021 For another, Logan is unusually hesitant and deferential. Shirley Li, The Atlantic, 2 Apr. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'deferential.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


defer(ence) + -ential, by analogy with other Latin-derived words where the suffixes -ence and -ential imply one another (as prudence, prudential)

First Known Use

1822, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of deferential was in 1822

Dictionary Entries Near deferential

Cite this Entry

“Deferential.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 May. 2023.

Kids Definition


def·​er·​en·​tial ˌdef-ə-ˈren-chəl How to pronounce deferential (audio)
: showing or expressing deference
deferentially adverb

Medical Definition


def·​er·​en·​tial ˌdef-ə-ˈren-chəl How to pronounce deferential (audio)

More from Merriam-Webster on deferential

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!