dependent

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

Definition of dependent

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : hanging down dependent lamps
2a : 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 : subject to another's jurisdiction a dependent territory
d grammar : subordinate sense 3a dependent clauses

3 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

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

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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

The United States is least dependent on Mexico for produce during the summer, when many domestic crops such as tomatoes and berries are abundant. David Karp, latimes.com, "What Trump's tariffs may mean for your avocado toast habit," 3 June 2019 Arousal is not dependent on your genitals or gender identity. Corinne Werder, Allure, "The Shame-Free Guide to Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder," 23 May 2019 In recent weeks, prominent academics have begun to question if China’s slowing, trade-dependent economy can withstand a sustained attack from Trump, which has already started to weigh on stock prices. Bloomberg.com, "China Begins to Question Whether It’s Ready for a Trade War," 26 June 2018 Through Tonight: The forecast for this evening is very location dependent. Greg Porter, Washington Post, "PM Update: Scattered thunderstorms persist into the evening hours. More rain likely on Sunday afternoon.," 9 June 2018 That’s partly because Europe is wedded to the pre-Trump international order: an American creation that was dependent upon American power, and which is now being undermined by its own creator. Jeet Heer, The New Republic, "Europe’s Total Failure to Resist Trump," 17 May 2018 Further payments, which include the potential acquisition of Vivet, are dependent on the progress of the French company’s experimental therapies. ... Denise Roland, WSJ, "Pfizer Adds to Big Pharma’s Gene-Therapy Deal Streak," 20 Mar. 2019 Alaska is very dependent on oil — and oil prices have been falling and the state’s revenue with it. Dylan Scott, Vox, "Alaska’s independent governor drops out of three-way race and endorses Democrat Mark Begich," 20 Oct. 2018 Due to the growth of Uber and Lyft, businesses have become less dependent on the service. Patrick Sisson, Curbed, "Why valet parking is the future of smarter urban transit," 6 Aug. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors has fielded more than 100 calls for assistance from surviving spouses or dependents of veterans who qualify for benefits and who have not received them on time. Ben Kesling, WSJ, "Computer Flubs Left Vets Short of Housing Benefits," 15 Nov. 2018 The base even has a special web page advising Marines and dependents not to feed local wildlife, not only to avoid disrupting the balance of nature but attracting animals that could become a hazard to air operations onto the base. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "The F-35 Runs Into Another Expensive Problem: Birds," 15 May 2019 Able-bodied adults without dependents must work at least part-time or participate in a work program to receive food stamps for more than three months in a 36-month period. Andy Puzder, WSJ, "Stop Bezos From Hiring Poor People?," 17 Sep. 2018 The biggest near-term threat remains trade, with Washington as America’s most trade dependent/vulnerable state. Jon Talton, The Seattle Times, "So far, economy’s Big Mo’ can’t be stopped by scandal or bad policies," 5 Feb. 2019 In Hobby Lobby, the religious actor got an exemption from a general law, but that exemption imposed costs on others — in this case, women employees or the women dependents of men employees of a major corporation. Christopher Shea, Vox, "Why Jeff Sessions thinks Christians are under siege in America," 1 Aug. 2018 As part of the House farm bill, which passed in July, Americans 50 to 59 years old would have also have to work, and so would all parents with dependents between 6 and 17 years old (unless the parents are elderly). Alexia Fernández Campbell, Vox, "GOP plan to get Americans off food stamps puts 4 million children and seniors at risk," 15 Oct. 2018 Same Day Delivery - With many New Yorkers dependent on taxis, the subway or ride-hailing services like Uber to get around, Nordstrom shoppers can get their purchases dropped off at their home or office for a $20 fee. Charisse Jones, USA TODAY, "Nordstrom's first NYC store offers cocktails, round the clock pick up and even a shave," 9 Apr. 2018 The place will become, once again, a quiet spot where very few children live — its population a disproportionately elderly one, dependent on an imperiled social-security system. Brook Larmer, New York Times, "South Korea’s Most Dangerous Enemy: Demographics," 20 Feb. 2018

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 2a

Noun

1523, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

7 Jun 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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