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

Synonyms & Antonyms for inferior


lower, nether


higher, superior, upper

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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

But the knockout round has been an unprecedented grind, with inferior opponents (on paper) taking them to extra time in all three games. Brian Straus,, "France vs. Croatia: A First Look at Their World Cup Final Matchup," 11 July 2018 The victims of the toxic idea that Americans with dark skin are biologically destined to be, on average, intellectually inferior to Americans of light skin are not the white men who have promoted it but the black Americans who have endured it. Ezra Klein, Vox, "Sam Harris, Charles Murray, and the allure of race science," 27 Mar. 2018 This argument assumes that intent and impact are the same thing, and also ignores that blackface is deeply rooted in a history of casting African Americans as inferior. P.r. Lockhart, Vox, "Megyn Kelly’s initial defense of blackface ignored the practice’s deeply racist history," 24 Oct. 2018 Anti-Semitism argues not that Jewish people are inferior, but that Jewish people are dangerous. Jane Coaston, Vox, "How the rise of conspiracy theory politics emboldens anti-Semitism," 31 Oct. 2018 Windows 10’s tablet mode is inferior even to the original Windows 8 tablet interface, and Microsoft still hasn’t managed to convince enough companies to create apps that run well in both desktop and tablet modes. Tom Warren, The Verge, "The Surface Go is Microsoft’s hybrid PC dream made real," 8 Aug. 2018 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

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

3 Jan 2019

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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More from Merriam-Webster on inferior

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with inferior

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for inferior

Spanish Central: Translation of inferior

Nglish: Translation of inferior for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of inferior for Arabic Speakers

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involving abstract or general statements

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