def·​er·​en·​tial | \ˌde-fə-ˈren-chəl \

Definition of deferential 

: 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

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Other Words from deferential

deferentially \-​ˈren-​chə-​lē \ adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for deferential


deferent, dutiful, regardful, respectful


disrespectful, undutiful

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Examples of deferential in a Sentence

the man had the deferential attitude of someone who had been a servant his entire life

Recent Examples on the Web

But in another letter, sent on the day of Jefferson’s inauguration, Marshall expressed less deferential sentiments. Adam J. White, WSJ, "‘John Marshall’ Review: Chief Among Equals," 30 Nov. 2018 With some exceptions, presidents generally are deferential to their predecessors and loathe to attack them or even to draw unkind comparisons. Philip Rucker, Washington Post, "Trump’s ‘tougher on Russia’ claim fits a pattern of striving to one-up Obama," 20 Feb. 2018 In the run of cases, the Court’s decisions would likely be far more deferential to the democratic process and far more tightly linked to precedent. Daniel Epps, Vox, "A simple plan for saving the Supreme Court," 6 Sep. 2018 In the House, where Dorsey appeared alone to answer more than four hours’ worth of lawmakers’ questions, the tone was often sharper — but members of Congress were ultimately just as deferential. Casey Newton, The Verge, "Congress is getting better at questioning social media executives," 6 Sep. 2018 The performance by Republicans, echoing Mr. Trump’s own lines of attack, demonstrated just how far many in the party have moved since the days when they were seen as the party of law enforcement, deferential to its power and prerogatives. Nicholas Fandos, New York Times, "F.B.I. Agent Defends Actions in Russia Inquiry in Contentious House Testimony," 12 July 2018 While Trump sought to portray the meeting in Singapore as a personal victory, typically deferential Republican allies declined to second that narrative. Eli Stokols,, "Republicans remain skeptical despite Trump's boasts of breakthrough with North Korea's Kim," 12 June 2018 And uncles and cousins have told him of the importance of being respectful, even deferential, to police. Cleve R. Wootson Jr.,, "'First day of paper route and we are pulled over by police:' The latest in #LivingWhileBlack," 11 July 2018 And the public is already inclined to believe that Republicans are too deferential to polluters. Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, "The EPA Is Hiding Proof That a Widely Used Chemical Causes Leukemia: Report," 6 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'deferential.' 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 deferential

1822, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for deferential

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

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Statistics for deferential

Last Updated

9 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for deferential

The first known use of deferential was in 1822

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More Definitions for deferential


def·​er·​en·​tial | \ˌdef-ə-ˈren-chəl \

Medical Definition of deferential 

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Comments on deferential

What made you want to look up deferential? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a knickknack or trinket

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