in·​fe·​ri·​or | \ in-ˈfir-ē-ər How to pronounce inferior (audio) \

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 How to pronounce inferiority (audio) , -​ˈär-​ \ noun
inferiorly \ in-​ˈfir-​ē-​ər-​lē How to pronounce inferiorly (audio) \ 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

Too often, writers fell into the trap that Mexican food in Los Angeles was somehow inferior to the food in the motherland. Gustavo Arellano, Los Angeles Times, "For over 137 years, no newspaper has covered Mexican food better than the L.A. Times," 17 Sep. 2019 There are suggestions that her Ashkenazi family feels that Yemenite Israelis are inferior to those from European backgrounds, but this intriguing theme might have been more fully developed. Stephen Farber, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Incitement': Film Review | TIFF 2019," 8 Sep. 2019 In addition, the dictator believed that the Polish population was racially inferior to Germans, and thus would be easily overrun and enslaved. Olivia B. Waxman, Time, "The Invasion of Poland Wasn't Hitler's First Aggression. Here's Why That Move Marked the Beginning of WWII," 30 Aug. 2019 And without access to Alpenrose, local Little League teams will likely have to absorb $20,000 in new costs this year to rent fields from local schools and parks — many of which are inferior in quality, Rowell said. oregonlive, "Public access to Alpenrose ball fields, race tracks on shaky ground as dairy’s sale looms," 6 Sep. 2019 Second, research has shown that laptop notes are inferior to longhand notes. Kenneth A. Kiewra, Quartz, "A seven-step guide to taking better notes," 4 Sep. 2019 Astronomers say that the 2250-meter-high site, about half as high as Mauna Kea, is inferior for observations. Daniel Clery, Science | AAAS, "Stalled in Hawaii, giant telescope faces roadblocks at its backup site in the Canary Islands," 3 Sep. 2019 Many American businesses benefited from black bodies as property — human beings who yielded generations of free labor and profit for those who saw them as inferior and not human. Darcel Rockett,, "Commentary: Reframing American history — New York Times series on slavery should become required reading," 20 Aug. 2019 Boggs supplied inferior and defective materials in his parts that were used in military aircraft, vehicles and vessels, according to prosecutors. Kevin Krause, Dallas News, "Fort Worth defense contractor charged with felony for using cheap, substandard parts for U.S. tanks, other weapons," 19 Aug. 2019

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

26 Sep 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 How to pronounce inferior (audio) \

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 How to pronounce inferior (audio) \

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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