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

dangling, hanging, pendent (or pendant), pendulous, suspended

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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

Here's why the country is less dependent than ever on Saudi oil. Alex Connor, USA TODAY, "War with Iran? Trump would ‘like to avoid it’," 16 Sep. 2019 Hsu speculates that if the trade war continues, farmers may stop planting ginseng altogether and switch to a crop less dependent on a foreign market. Naomi Xu Elegant, Fortune, "Wisconsin Ginseng Farmers Had Been Exporting to China for a Century. Then Came the Trade War," 31 Aug. 2019 France is less export-dependent than Germany and so less vulnerable to trade turbulence. The Economist, "Emmanuel Macron reclaims France’s international role," 29 Aug. 2019 So the networks ordered emergency programming that wasn’t dependent on writers. Mark Dawidziak, cleveland.com, "‘Seinfeld,’ ‘Mad Men’ and other summer starters that turned into red-hot hits," 2 Aug. 2019 Jones said on Tuesday that his next contract wasn’t dependent on what Thomas gets from the Saints or on what another former Crimson Tide wide receiver, Amari Cooper, gets from the Dallas Cowboys. Mark Inabinett | Minabinett@al.com, al, "Julio Jones limiting preseason work to practice," 1 Aug. 2019 Bratton's unhurried approach, by contrast, reminds us that systemic problems are not unique to one era, not dependent on who sits in the seats of power. Keith Uhlich, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Pier Kids': Film Review | Outfest 2019," 22 July 2019 Aphoristic prose is to the true, pure aphorism what storytelling is to standup comedy: easier to do because less dependent on a single explosive response. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, "The Art of Aphorism," 15 July 2019 Following 2018’s selloff, most of the money coming back to the market has gone into companies with steady dividends—often perceived as bond substitutes—and earnings that are less dependent on economic booms. Jon Sindreu, WSJ, "Investors Are Too Thirsty for Utility Stocks," 28 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Their female employees, dependents, and students will no longer be entitled to coverage for the full range of FDA approved contraceptives at no cost. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, "Column: The 10 worst things Trump has done to harm your healthcare," 20 Aug. 2019 Court documents said Benitez has six dependents and a net income of $388 from public assistance, such as food stamps. Serena O'sullivan, azcentral, "Phoenix mom accused of buying stolen items, involving her kids in reselling merchandise," 14 June 2019 Some of those previous deals included targeted revenue-raising provisions, such as expanded taxes on the investment income of young adult dependents and tighter tax requirements on people who renounce their citizenship. Richard Rubin, WSJ, "Democratic House Win Sets Up Clash Over Trump Tax Cuts," 9 Nov. 2018 Then Kills Her and Himself as Authorities Close In Michael and Kristine have been charged with two counts of neglect of a dependent, Fox 59 reported. Robyn Merrett, PEOPLE.com, "Parenting Author & Husband Accused of Changing Daughter's Age from 8 to 22, Moving Countries Without Her," 17 Sep. 2019 The center serves Osceola schools employees and dependents enrolled in the county’s health-care plan. Hal Boedeker, orlandosentinel.com, "Harris Rosen talks health care; Darren Soto discusses gun control," 15 Aug. 2019 Childless adults who can’t or don’t find work would still be out of luck; even some adults with children would be excluded, as eligibility for the credit would be based on claiming a child as a dependent, which some non-custodial parents cannot do. Dylan Matthews, Vox, "Parenting can be a full-time job. Activists want the tax code to treat it that way.," 15 July 2019 Omaha Steaks: Active-duty military, retirees, veterans, military spouses and dependents get 10% off Thursday. Kelly Tyko, USA TODAY, "Where active military, vets can get free food and save July 4th and throughout the year," 3 July 2019 Get on the same page with your spouse and dependents about everything from care packages to international cellphone usage, advises Lacey Langford, an accredited financial counselor and Air Force veteran. Washington Post, "Millennial Money: 5 money tactics for military deployments," 18 June 2019

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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Statistics for dependent

Last Updated

11 Oct 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for dependent

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

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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

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

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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

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Comments on dependent

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