dependent

adjective
de·​pen·​dent | \ di-ˈpen-dənt How to pronounce dependent (audio) \

Definition of dependent

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : determined or conditioned by another : contingent plans that are dependent on the weather
b(1) : relying on another for support dependent children Their youngest daughter is still dependent on them.
(2) : affected with a drug dependence (see dependence sense 4) alcohol dependent
c grammar : subordinate sense 3a dependent clauses
d : subject to another's jurisdiction a dependent territory
2 mathematics
a : not mathematically or statistically independent (see independent entry 1 sense 1e) a dependent set of vectors dependent events
b : equivalent sense 6a dependent equations
3 : hanging down dependent lamps

dependent

noun
de·​pen·​dent | \ di-ˈpen-dənt How to pronounce dependent (audio) \
variants: or less commonly dependant

Definition of dependent (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : one that is dependent especially : a person who relies on another for support an individual's spouse and dependent
2 archaic : dependency

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Other Words from dependent

Adjective

dependently adverb

Synonyms for dependent

Synonyms: Adjective

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Is it ever correct to use dependant instead of dependent?

The simple answer to the question of when dependant should be preferred to dependent is—for the American writer, anyway—maybe never. But that's only the simple answer.

In British English, dependant tends to be used for the noun, as in "a person's spouse and dependants," while dependent is the usual choice for the adjective, as in "a person's spouse and dependent children." In American English, dependent typically does both jobs.

This wasn't always the case: dependant is the older of the pair. The word is derived from French dépendant, which was borrowed into English during the Middle Ages with two different meanings: a literal one, "hanging down" (dépendant is the present participle of the French verb dépendre, meaning "to hang down”) and an extended one, “determined or conditioned by another.”

For two centuries, the English adjective was frequently spelled with final -ant or -aunt. But in the 16th century, the spelling of the word began to shift toward the -ent ending, influenced by the Latin form of the word, dēpendēnt. It is this Latinized spelling of the adjective that is predominately found in American and British English today.

The French-derived dependant, however, still has life across the pond—as a noun. The noun form is newer; it dates to the early 16th century, around the time that the spelling of the word was shifting. Why the -ant spelling for the noun had more staying power in British English is unknown. As the Oxford English Dictionary notes, it was possibly influenced by other nouns, such as defendant and assistant.

In summary, dependant can be used for the noun in either British or American English, but dependent for either noun or adjective is a safe choice in American English.

Examples of dependent in a Sentence

Adjective He has been alcohol dependent for several years. the dependent willow branches swayed in the gentle breeze Noun The insurance provides coverage for workers and their dependents. a person's spouse and dependents Do you have any dependents?
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Under the state’s reopening blueprint, counties have to maintain metrics for two consecutive weeks to progress, so L.A.'s big move will be dependent on the county sustaining its numbers through next week. Los Angeles Times, "Essential California: L.A. inches toward the yellow tier," 28 Apr. 2021 Yields are dependent on weather, and since accurately predicting long term weather trends is not yet possible, the USDA is forced to use estimates based upon historical data. Sal Gilbertie, Forbes, "Shrinking Global Grain Supplies Have Little Hope Of Replenishment Until 2022 - Or Beyond," 28 Apr. 2021 According to a press release from Brown’s office, counties will be in extreme risk for a maximum of three weeks, though any loosening of restrictions will be dependent on falling cases, hospitalizations and positivity rates. Michael Russell, oregonlive, "What does Oregon’s new indoor dining shutdown mean for restaurants, and how long will it last?," 28 Apr. 2021 The risk of facing another surge is dependent, in part, on how many people in the U.S. get a vaccine. David Hogberg, Washington Examiner, "Post-vaccination US faces risk of COVID-19 variants from poor countries," 27 Apr. 2021 The project’s construction timeline is dependent on financing, the developer said. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Bullet dodged? $350M California Theatre project on track to replace decaying building with condos, hotel," 27 Apr. 2021 There were big plans to grow Essex County in 2021, and while production capacity has increased after some major investments, total growth will be dependent on how quickly things bounce back from the pandemic. BostonGlobe.com, "Essex County Brewing Company found its star in a batch of homebrew," 27 Apr. 2021 Pricing will be dependent on the amount of time and space a group is looking to use. Hannah Kirby, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "'Break that barrier': Community arts space moving into former Off the Wall Theatre hopes to cultivate equity, healing," 27 Apr. 2021 The Trump administration's rule, issued in 2019, widened the definition of who is expected to be dependent on the government by including more benefit programs. Ariane De Vogue And Priscilla Alvarez, CNN, "Supreme Court won't let Texas immediately defend Trump-era 'public charge' immigration rule," 26 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The credit is worth $2,000 per child under 17 that can be claimed as a dependent. Jessica Menton, USA TODAY, "Stimulus check update: When will ‘plus-up’ payments arrive? Answers to your COVID relief questions," 10 Apr. 2021 The person who claims the child as a dependent on their tax return should receive the stimulus check. Aimee Picchi, CBS News, "Stimulus check: Why your "plus-up" payment might not be as big as you expect," 9 Apr. 2021 The rules are different if someone can claim you as a dependent. Tribune News Service, oregonlive, "If you didn’t file taxes in 2017, you still have time to claim a refund," 8 Apr. 2021 Hill has a medical school student whose parents aren’t claiming her as a dependent. Ashlea Ebeling, Forbes, "Rich Retirees Get Tax Time Surprise: 3 Stimulus Payments," 11 Mar. 2021 The package includes a third round of stimulus payments: $1,400 payments to single people, $2,800 for married couples and $1,400 for anyone classified as a dependent. Leada Gore | Lgore@al.com, al, "Stimulus calculator: How much will you get from $1,400 stimulus payment?," 24 Feb. 2021 But while Debbi and her husband Victor got relief payments last year, Debbi noticed Josh was not included, despite being listed as a dependent on the family's tax filings. Hunter Woodall, Star Tribune, "Stimulus package benefits millions of families with adult dependents," 13 Apr. 2021 The person who claims the child as a dependent on their tax return should receive the stimulus check. Aimee Picchi, CBS News, "Stimulus check: Why your "plus-up" payment might not be as big as you expect," 9 Apr. 2021 Unfortunately, anyone who was claimed as a dependent on someone else's return wasn't eligible for a check of their own, so college students were ineligible. Josh Rivera, USA TODAY, "This is America: Make the most of your taxes (we're looking at you, Gen Z)," 8 Apr. 2021

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

Adjective

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Noun

1523, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for dependent

Adjective and Noun

Middle English dependant, from Anglo-French, present participle of dependre — see depend

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Time Traveler for dependent

Time Traveler

The first known use of dependent was in the 14th century

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Statistics for dependent

Last Updated

2 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Dependent.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dependent. Accessed 6 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for dependent

dependent

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of dependent

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: decided or controlled by something else
: needing someone or something else for support, help, etc.
: addicted to alcohol or a drug

dependent

noun

English Language Learners Definition of dependent (Entry 2 of 2)

: a person (such as a child) whose food, clothing, etc., you are responsible for providing

dependent

adjective
de·​pen·​dent | \ di-ˈpen-dənt How to pronounce dependent (audio) \

Kids Definition of dependent

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : determined by something or someone else Our plans are dependent on the weather.
2 : relying on someone else for support
3 : requiring or addicted to a drug or alcohol

dependent

noun

Kids Definition of dependent (Entry 2 of 2)

: a person who depends upon another for support

dependent

adjective
de·​pen·​dent | \ di-ˈpen-dənt How to pronounce dependent (audio) \

Medical Definition of dependent

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : unable to exist, sustain oneself, or act appropriately or normally without the assistance or direction of another
2 : affected with a drug dependence
3a : occurring under the influence of gravity dependent drainage
b : affecting the lower part of the body and especially the legs dependent edema

Other Words from dependent

dependently adverb

dependent

noun
variants: also dependant

Medical Definition of dependent (Entry 2 of 2)

: one that is dependent (as on drugs or a person)

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dependent

adjective
de·​pen·​dent

Legal Definition of dependent

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : determined or conditioned by another : contingent
2a : relying on another for especially financial support
b : lacking the necessary means of support or protection and in need of aid from others (as a public agency) have the child declared dependent and taken away from his or her parents— L. H. Tribe
3 : subject to another's jurisdiction the United States and its dependent territories

dependent

noun

Legal Definition of dependent (Entry 2 of 2)

: a person who is dependent especially : a close relative or member of a taxpayer's household who receives over half of his or her support from the taxpayer and is a U.S. citizen, national, or resident, or a resident of a bordering country (as Mexico) — see also dependency exemption at exemption

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Comments on dependent

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