dependent

1 of 2

adjective

de·​pen·​dent di-ˈpen-dənt How to pronounce dependent (audio)
1
a
: 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
dependently adverb

dependent

2 of 2

noun

de·​pen·​dent di-ˈpen-dənt How to pronounce dependent (audio)
variants or less commonly dependant
1
: one that is dependent
especially : a person who relies on another for support
an individual's spouse and dependent
2
archaic : dependency

Did you know?

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?
Recent Examples on the Web
Adjective
To have one of the great cities in the world dependent on one source of development dollars is really bad. Seth Abramovitch, The Hollywood Reporter, 14 Feb. 2024 How to get the maximum tax refund U.S. News & World Report suggests itemizing deductions, claiming credit for energy-efficient home improvements and claiming dependent care expenses, such as day care, before- and after-school programs and summer camps for a higher refund. Evan Moore, Charlotte Observer, 8 Feb. 2024 Victims’ domestic partners and children who are dependent minors would also be newly eligible for compensation. Sam Janesch, Baltimore Sun, 6 Feb. 2024 This leads to knock-on effects as businesses dependent on their employees for customers—downtown cafes and lunch spots for example—also suffer from the lower foot traffic. Christiaan Hetzner, Fortune, 5 Feb. 2024 This feeling is especially palpable in Nevada, a state dependent on a single industry — casino resorts and the hospitality trade — for roughly one-fourth of its jobs. Peter S. Goodman Bridget Bennett, New York Times, 5 Feb. 2024 The ambivalence is shared by residents who, while historically dependent on tourism (West Maui accounts for 15% of Hawaiian tourism revenue), believe the rebuilding process provides a rare opportunity to address overtourism, environmental degradation, and economic imbalance. Crai S. Bower, Condé Nast Traveler, 2 Feb. 2024 However, the teens were dependent on a ride from Jimenez’s father, and didn’t arrive until 8 a.m. Ariane Lange, Sacramento Bee, 4 Feb. 2024 Make neighborhoods dense and walkable and dependent on public transit. E. Tammy Kim, The New Yorker, 1 Feb. 2024
Noun
With two incomes and no dependents, DINKs often find themselves with more disposable income and free time compared to traditional families. Mark Travers, Forbes, 13 Feb. 2024 As a single person with no dependents, no assets and qualifying for only two standard deductions, the filing process was pretty simple. Evan Moore, Charlotte Observer, 8 Feb. 2024 What the company calls Simply Free is free for both federal and state returns for filers who claim W-2 income and the standard deduction and those who file as single or married filing jointly with no dependents. PCMAG, 5 Feb. 2024 My financial situation is fairly simple: single, no dependents and no real estate. Liz Weston, San Diego Union-Tribune, 28 Jan. 2024 There are several qualifying factors, including being at least 24 years old, married or a graduate student, or having dependents of your own. The New York Times, New York Times, 12 Jan. 2024 Some 6,000 Navy personnel, their dependents and civilians complained of physical ailments after the spill. CBS News, 30 Nov. 2023 Veterans, dependents and active-duty military members can attend the free event. Linda McIntosh, San Diego Union-Tribune, 13 Jan. 2024 Other measures Cleverly announced in the Commons include stopping overseas care workers from bringing family dependents, and ending the 20% salary discount firms can pay compared with the going rate for workers on the government’s shortage occupation list. Kitty Donaldson, Fortune Europe, 5 Dec. 2023 See More

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

Word History

Etymology

Adjective and Noun

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

First Known Use

Adjective

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

Noun

1523, in the meaning defined at sense 2

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

Dictionary Entries Near dependent

Cite this Entry

“Dependent.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dependent. Accessed 27 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

dependent

1 of 2 adjective
de·​pend·​ent
di-ˈpen-dənt
1
: hanging down
2
a
: determined by something else
b
: relying on another for support
dependent children
c
: affected with a drug addiction
d
: being under another's authority
a dependent territory
3
: subordinate entry 1 sense 3a
a dependent clause
dependently adverb

dependent

2 of 2 noun
variants also dependant
-dənt
: a person who relies on another for support

Medical Definition

dependent

1 of 2 adjective
de·​pen·​dent di-ˈpen-dənt How to pronounce dependent (audio)
1
: unable to exist, sustain oneself, or act appropriately or normally without the assistance or direction of another
2
: affected with a drug dependence
3
a
: occurring under the influence of gravity
dependent drainage
b
: affecting the lower part of the body and especially the legs
dependent edema
dependently adverb

dependent

2 of 2 noun
variants also dependant
: one that is dependent (as on drugs or a person)

Legal Definition

dependent

1 of 2 adjective
de·​pen·​dent
1
: determined or conditioned by another : contingent
2
a
: 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 parentsL. H. Tribe
3
: subject to another's jurisdiction
the United States and its dependent territories

dependent

2 of 2 noun
: 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

More from Merriam-Webster on dependent

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