doc·​ile | \ ˈdä-səl How to pronounce docile (audio) also -ˌsī(-ə)l, especially British ˈdō-ˌsī(-ə)l \

Definition of docile

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

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Other Words from docile

docilely \ ˈdä-​sə(l)-​lē How to pronounce docilely (audio) \ adverb
docility \ dä-​ˈsi-​lə-​tē How to pronounce docility (audio) , dō-​ \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for 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

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).

Examples of docile in a Sentence

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 Ozick, New Yorker, 16 & 23 June 2003 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 Ocone, Sunset, February 1994 His students were docile and eager to learn. a docile young pony that went wherever it was led
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Recent Examples on the Web Writing is neither vibrant life nor docile artifact but a text that would put all its money on the hope of suggestion. Gal Koplewitz, The New Yorker, "Amos Oz and the Politics of the Hebrew Language," 12 Nov. 2019 Ragdoll cats are known for their semi-long soft coats and docile temperaments., "The cats were removed from a “dirty and overcrowded” home Tuesday after being voluntarily surrendered by a breeder “whose operation grew beyond her ability to sustain the cats’ care,” the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said in a statement.," 19 Oct. 2019 The researchers don’t yet know why aggressive colonies outperform docile colonies after a tropical storm. Kelly Mayes, Science | AAAS, "Tropical storms are making these spiders more aggressive," 19 Aug. 2019 In the aftermath of the 2018 hurricane season, aggressive colonies of spiders thrived, while predominantly docile groups struggled to survive. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian, "Hurricanes Are Making This Spider Species More Aggressive," 20 Aug. 2019 But extreme weather like hurricanes is wiping out the more docile ones, leaving only the most aggressive ones behind—who repopulate the colonies with their also-aggressive young. Alex Baker-whitcomb, WIRED, "Bananas in Crisis, Aggressive Social Spiders, and More News," 19 Aug. 2019 The docile ocean mammal was spotted without a mother near the coast of Krabi, a popular beach destination in Southern Thailand, in April. Stephanie Bailey, CNN, "Meet the Thai actor who helped make a baby sea cow an internet star," 6 Aug. 2019 As Hurricane Dorian approaches Florida, consider that feeding style means that aggressive tangle-web spider colonies produce more offspring after severe weather, while docile colonies do better in calm conditions. Susanne Bard, Scientific American, "How Hurricanes Influence Spider Aggressiveness," 30 Aug. 2019 The trainers own three brown bears but only one, Mischa, is docile enough for shows. Washington Post, "France bans shows by ailing bear following abuse complaints," 13 Sep. 2019

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.

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First Known Use of docile

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for docile

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

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Time Traveler for docile

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The first known use of docile was in the 15th century

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Last Updated

2 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Docile.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 6 December 2019.

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More Definitions for docile


How to pronounce docile (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of docile

: easily taught, led, or controlled


doc·​ile | \ ˈdä-səl How to pronounce docile (audio) \

Kids Definition of docile

: easily taught, led, or managed a docile horse

Other Words from docile

docilely adverb

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More from Merriam-Webster on docile

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for docile

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with docile

Spanish Central: Translation of docile

Nglish: Translation of docile for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of docile for Arabic Speakers

Comments on docile

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


very cautious or careful

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