de·​pen·​dence | \ di-ˈpen-dən(t)s How to pronounce dependence (audio) \
variants: or less commonly dependance

Definition of dependence

1 : the quality or state of being dependent especially : the quality or state of being influenced or determined by or subject to another
3 : one that is relied on
4a : drug addiction developed a dependence on painkillers

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Examples of dependence in a Sentence

The company was hurt by its dependence on government loans. Our dependence upon foreign oil makes our economy vulnerable. a harmful dependence on foreign oil
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Recent Examples on the Web Each character stands on a precipice, wobbling between feelings of temptation and failure, autonomy and dependence, righteousness and regret. Tiana Reid, Vulture, 31 Aug. 2021 Sankara’s advocacy for African self-dependence in everything from politics to food was considered revolutionary in the 1980s, but today, his message is championed across Western Africa as chefs begin to liberate their craft from the pall of history. James Patterson, Condé Nast Traveler, 24 Aug. 2021 Still, the opioid can cross the placenta, causing dependence in the fetus. Terry Demio, The Enquirer, 12 Aug. 2021 As of July, the Bureau of Prisons had only 268 people on medications to treat opioid dependence, according to Jeffrey A. Burkett, who helps oversee the rollout of the program as the National Health Services Administrator for the BOP. Beth Schwartzapfel, USA TODAY, 10 Aug. 2021 Psychologists and others have raised alarms about children’s high levels of stress and dependence on their parents, and the need to develop independence, self-reliance and grit. New York Times, 5 Aug. 2021 Neither Hart nor Pollan is agitating for some freewheeling Thunderdome, where the very real ravages of addiction and drug dependence are downplayed. John Semley, The New Republic, 26 July 2021 Nawabi argued that Mitchell had no new cases in nearly three years and has been taking Suboxone, a drug to treat opioid dependence. Ron Kroichick, San Francisco Chronicle, 22 July 2021 Public policy should aim toward increasing resilience and renewal, rather than dependence on the administrative state. Wayne Crews, National Review, 14 July 2021

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

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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The first known use of dependence was in the 15th century

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Last Updated

8 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Dependence.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for dependence



English Language Learners Definition of dependence

: the state of needing something or someone else for support, help, etc.
: the state of being addicted to alcohol or a drug


de·​pen·​dence | \ di-ˈpen-dəns How to pronounce dependence (audio) \

Kids Definition of dependence

1 : a condition of being influenced and caused by something else
2 : a state of having to rely on someone or something dependence on charity
4 : addiction to drugs or alcohol


de·​pen·​dence | \ di-ˈpen-dən(t)s How to pronounce dependence (audio) \

Medical Definition of dependence

1 : the quality or state of being dependent upon or unduly subject to the influence of another
2a : drug addiction

More from Merriam-Webster on dependence

Nglish: Translation of dependence for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of dependence for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about dependence


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