in·​fe·​ri·​or | \in-ˈfir-ē-ər \

Definition of inferior 

1 : situated lower down : lower

2a : of low or lower degree or rank

b : of poor quality : mediocre

3 : of little or less importance, value, or merit always felt inferior to his older brother

4a : situated below another and especially another similar superior part of an upright body

b : situated in a relatively low posterior or ventral position in a quadrupedal body

c(1) : situated below another plant part or organ

(2) : abaxial

5 : relating to or being a subscript

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Other Words from inferior

inferior noun
inferiority \ (ˌ)in-​ˌfir-​ē-​ˈȯr-​ə-​tē , -​ˈär-​ \ noun
inferiorly \ in-​ˈfir-​ē-​ər-​lē \ adverb

Examples of inferior in a Sentence

… the pearls were of inferior quality; they looked like pearlized globs of varying wrinkly shapes. — Tracie Rozhon, New York Times, 24 Aug. 2002 Sharks, rays, and ratfishes share a special burden: these cartilaginous fishes are saddled with a reputation for being somehow inferior to vertebrates blessed with bony skeletons. — Carl Zimmer, Natural History, September 2000 No longer do workers and peasants feel inferior to the university-trained. — Rhea Menzel Whitehead, Saturday Review, 4 Mar. 1972 These pearls are of inferior quality. They were considered a socially inferior group. He always felt inferior around his brother. The judges voted to overturn a ruling made by an inferior court.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Although he will be marked down for facing inferior competition in the AAC, that distinction should count for something. Chris Johnson,, "The Most Intriguing Dark Horses of the Offseason Heisman Hype Machine," 17 May 2018 The evidence suggests Tiger was beating up on inferior competition. Chris Chase, For The Win, "Who is the greatest golfer ever: Tiger or Jack?," 13 Apr. 2018 The belief that people raised in hot climates were lazy, and generally inferior to inhabitants of cold climates, spread throughout the West. Amanda Kolson Hurley, WIRED, "Climate Change Will Not Make Us Nicer," 20 Mar. 2018 One of the most refreshing things about living in Europe (or small towns in the rural US) is knowing that the poor aren’t condemned to a completely separate, and inferior, life. Antonio García Martínez, WIRED, "How Silicon Valley Fuels an Informal Caste System," 9 July 2018 Race becomes a symbol for inferior genes that cause illness. Jennifer W. Tsai, STAT, "You can’t tell a book by its cover — or a disease by Drake’s race," 11 July 2018 Even ordinary Bourgognes Rouges and Blancs — wines blended with fruit often grown on lowland, inferior soils — are routinely creeping into the $40 and $50 range. Patrick Comiskey,, "Alternatives to Burgundy, from Burgundy," 29 June 2018 Plastic becomes brittle, has inferior load rating, fades in the sun and breaks are much more likely. Timothy Dahl, Popular Mechanics, "How to Choose the Right Roof Rack to Carry All Your Gear," 4 May 2018 Saudi Arabia spends more than most comparable countries on education, yet achieves results that are markedly inferior. The Economist, "Breaking the curseWhy Gulf economies struggle to wean themselves off oil," 21 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'inferior.' 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 inferior

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for inferior

Middle English, from Latin, comparative of inferus lower — more at under

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Statistics for inferior

Last Updated

24 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for inferior

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

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More Definitions for inferior



English Language Learners Definition of inferior

: of poor quality : low or lower in quality

: of little or less importance or value

: low or lower in rank


in·​fe·​ri·​or | \in-ˈfir-ē-ər \

Kids Definition of inferior

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : situated lower down (as in place or importance) an inferior court

2 : of little or less importance, value, or merit He always felt inferior to his brother.

3 : of poor quality an inferior education



Kids Definition of inferior (Entry 2 of 2)

: a less important person or thing


in·​fe·​ri·​or | \in-ˈfir-ē-ər \

Medical Definition of inferior 

1 : situated below and closer to the feet than another and especially another similar part of an upright body especially of a human being — compare superior sense 1

2 : situated in a more posterior or ventral position in the body of a quadruped — compare superior sense 2

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Legal Definition of inferior 

: of lower status, rank, or priority

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Comments on inferior

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


obstinately defiant of authority

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