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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from dependent

Adjective

dependently adverb

Synonyms for dependent

Synonyms: Adjective

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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?
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective His mother was hospitalized with Covid-19 a week before his own illness and is still dependent on oxygen treatments. James Estrin, New York Times, "How a Queens Pastor Tends to His Flock From Six Feet Away," 20 May 2020 Doyle added that Katy ISD’s budget is tied to the state’s budget, so incoming funds will be dependent on the state’s economic status. Claire Goodman, Houston Chronicle, "Katy ISD puts plans in place for ongoing pandemic," 19 May 2020 European economies that are dependent on tourism are working on ways to keep people separated at the beach. CNN, "CNN 10 - May 19, 2020," 18 May 2020 The Euclid Avenue restaurant is dependent on theater business; Playhouse Square productions are shut down for the remainder of the year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Marc Bona, cleveland, "As restaurants re-open, several in Cleveland take cautious approach," 18 May 2020 Beer garden hours are dependent on weather, Schmitt said. Kathy Flanigan, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "'People are just so hungry to hang out': The beer garden at Hoyt Park opens Friday, with limits," 15 May 2020 Although the Giants are dependent on ballpark attendance, the team also has the luxury of having paid off privately financed Oracle Park. Ann Killion, SFChronicle.com, "Harsh times could await some Bay Area teams as coronavirus slows cash flow," 14 May 2020 The company's future is dependent on some serious diversification. Mike Duff, Car and Driver, "Aston Martin's Next Vanquish Will Be a 700-HP Mid-Engine Supercar," 5 May 2020 This mom obviously raised these kids to be dependent and to act helpless when at home. Amy Dickinson, Washington Post, "Ask Amy: Covid-19 crisis creates strange bedfellows," 2 May 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun People who receive Supplemental Security Income or Department of Veterans Affairs benefits also don't automatically get payments for dependents. CBS News, "Where's my stimulus check? Answers to common payment questions," 20 May 2020 But for workers who do qualify, the FFCRA grants paid leave to care for dependents. Marissa Korbel, Washington Post, "How leave provided by the coronavirus relief bill is saving my sanity while we shelter in place," 15 May 2020 Account funds can also pay for care for older dependents who can’t care for themselves. ... Laura Saunders, WSJ, "Summer Camp Canceled? IRS Gives Coronavirus Relief for Dependent-Care Accounts," 13 May 2020 People who receive Supplemental Security Income or Department of Veterans Affairs benefits also don’t automatically get payments for dependents. NBC News, "Where's my check? Answers to common relief payment questions," 1 May 2020 The federal government worked to inject money into the economy by giving most adults a stimulus check of up to $1,200 for an individual and $500 for dependents. Madison Dibble, Washington Examiner, "Nearly 9 in 10 fear economy will collapse during coronavirus shutdowns," 28 Apr. 2020 Social Security and Railroad Retirement beneficiaries who don't file tax returns were given until noon April 22 to claim an extra $500 payment for dependents under 17 - or risk waiting until next year for the funds. Michelle Singletary, Anchorage Daily News, "If you’re still waiting on your $1,200 stimulus check, here are key dates for the next set of payments," 27 Apr. 2020 In other words, people around the world recognize that a civilized society must do something to provide a base of support for its elderly citizens, for people with disabilities and for the dependents of workers who have died. Tom Margenau, Dallas News, "Social Security in Australia: A brief look at benefits Down Under, Part 1," 26 Apr. 2020 The group isn't eligible for relief under the federal stimulus bill, which is providing up to $1,200 per individual or $2,400 per couple, plus $500 for dependents under the age of 17. Arlene Martinez, USA TODAY, "In CA: Undocumented immigrants join 2.7 Californians in getting unemployment aid," 16 Apr. 2020

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about dependent

Time Traveler for dependent

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for dependent

Last Updated

23 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Dependent.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dependent. Accessed 4 Jun. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for dependent

dependent

noun

Financial Definition of dependent

What It Is

A dependent relies on someone else for most or all of his or her financial support.

How It Works

In general, dependents are exemptions that reduce a taxpayer's taxable income. Taxpayers typically can take an exemption for each of his or her dependents. Spouses are not considered dependents from a tax perspective.

To claim someone as a dependent, the dependent must be a U.S. citizen, a U.S. resident alien, a U.S. national resident, or a resident of Canada or Mexico for some part of the year. Adopted children have some special exceptions to this rule. The filer must provide Social Security numbers for all dependents.

People who are dependents on another person's tax return may still have to file their own tax returns. This depends on how much they earn, how old they are and other factors. Dependents cannot claim any personal exemptions on their tax returns.

Why It Matters

The presence and number of dependents affect a taxpayer's tax liabilities and eligibility for public assistance programs such as welfare and food stamps. As mentioned, dependents increase the number of exemptions a taxypayer receives.

Source: Investing Answers

dependent

adjective
How to pronounce dependent (audio)

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
How to pronounce dependent (audio)

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

Keep scrolling for more

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)

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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on dependent

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

WORD OF THE DAY

See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

May 2020 Words of the Day Quiz

  • a blooming wisteria tree
  • Which is a synonym of exiguous?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!