def·​er·​en·​tial | \ ˌde-fə-ˈren-chəl How to pronounce deferential (audio) \

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 \ ˌde-​fə-​ˈren-​chə-​lē How to pronounce deferentially (audio) \ 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

Many of these complaints revolved around the belief that Guyger has been given deferential treatment by law enforcement over the course of the investigation, with critics arguing that Guyger should have initially been charged with murder. P.r. Lockhart, Vox, "Amber Guyger has been indicted for murder after the Botham Jean shooting," 30 Nov. 2018 Republicans are generally very, very, very deferential. Fox News, "Kavanaugh grilled on cases during confirmation hearing," 6 Sep. 2018 This may have been an excuse; Trump, while recently deferential to Kim, despite his reputation as a murderous strongman, has doled out his share of insults in the past. Z. Byron Wolf, CNN, "Trump walks away from more deals than he makes," 24 May 2018 If Denholm can act independently and not look deferential to Musk, that further strengthens Tesla’s position in the ongoing investigation. Elizabeth Lopatto, The Verge, "Elon Musk doesn’t respect the SEC, which is still investigating Tesla," 14 Dec. 2018 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

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

23 Apr 2019

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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 How to pronounce deferential (audio) \

Medical Definition of deferential

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Comments on deferential

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showing great care, attention, and effort

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