adjective doc·ile \ ˈdä-səl also -ˌsī(-ə)l , especially British ˈdō-ˌsī(-ə)l \
|Updated on: 15 Jul 2018

Definition of docile

1 : easily taught
  • a docile pupil
2 : easily led or managed : tractable
  • a docile pony


play \ˈdä-sə(l)-lē\ adverb


play \dä-ˈsi-lə-tē, dō-\ noun

docile was our Word of the Day on 11/09/2009. Hear the podcast!

Examples of docile in a Sentence

  1. In the course of a single month, from Annie's arrival to her triumph in bridling the household despot, Helen [Keller] had grown docile, affectionate, and tirelessly intent on learning from moment to moment. —Cynthia OzickNew Yorker16 & 23 June 2003
  2. Africanized honeybees look like the European honeybees now commonly found in our gardens, and like their relatives, they make honey. They are fairly docile when they are foraging, but they defend their nests ferociously. —Lynn OconeSunsetFebruary 1994
  3. His students were docile and eager to learn.

  4. a docile young pony that went wherever it was led

Recent Examples of docile from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'docile.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Ready to Learn The Origin of docile?

Docile students can make teaching a lot easier. Nowadays, calling students "docile" indicates they aren't trouble-makers. But there's more than just good behavior connecting docility to teachability. The original meaning of "docile" is more to the point: "readily absorbing something taught." "The docile mind may soon thy precepts know," rendered Ben Jonson, for example, in a 17th-century translation of the Roman poet Horace. "Docile" comes from Latin docēre, which means "to teach." Other descendants of "docēre" include "doctrine" (which can mean "something that is taught"), "document" (the earliest meaning of which was "instruction"), and "doctor" and "docent" (both of which can refer to college teachers).

Origin and Etymology of docile

Latin docilis, from docēre to teach; akin to Latin decēre to be fitting — more at decent

Synonym Discussion of docile

obedient, docile, tractable, amenable mean submissive to the will of another. obedient implies compliance with the demands or requests of one in authority.
    • obedient to the government
docile implies a predisposition to submit readily to control or guidance.
    • a docile child
tractable suggests having a character that permits easy handling or managing.
    • tractable animals
amenable suggests a willingness to yield or cooperate because of a desire to be agreeable or because of a natural open-mindedness.
    • amenable to new ideas

DOCILE Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of docile for English Language Learners

  • : easily taught, led, or controlled

DOCILE Defined for Kids


adjective doc·ile \ ˈdä-səl \

Definition of docile for Students

: easily taught, led, or managed
  • a docile horse



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