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sub·​al·​tern sə-ˈbȯl-tərn How to pronounce subaltern (audio)
 especially British  ˈsə-bəl-tərn
: particular with reference to a related universal proposition
"some S is P" is a subaltern proposition to "all S is P"


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: a person holding a subordinate position
specifically : a junior officer (as in the British army)
: a particular proposition that follows immediately from a universal

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web
Some of these movements were also explicitly anti-caste, which has been attributed to the consolidation of the subaltern, yielding a sense of solidarity and common purpose. Nilakantan Rs, Quartz, 5 Jan. 2023 Gossip, Babitz suggests, is a different, subaltern way of knowing—disdained by the (male) structures of power, but with a power (and an appeal) all its own. Kevin Dettmar, The Atlantic, 10 Aug. 2022 The winners of the subaltern awards make no speeches, just say a simple thank you, if that. Thomas Doherty, The Hollywood Reporter, 26 Mar. 2022 Even the ultimate military failure of the Coromantee War, Brown suggests, should be viewed primarily as a consequence of subaltern decisions and divisions rather than of a stable colonial hegemony. Fara Dabhoiwala, The New York Review of Books, 3 Aug. 2020 For the dominant group, being judged and asked to justify itself, as so many subaltern groups are judged and asked to justify themselves, feels like an insult. David Roberts, Vox, 26 July 2018 In both novels, Kushner cuts the glamor of Rome, New York City, and Havana with scenes of subaltern life at the edge of manufacturing. Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic, 7 June 2018 That theme was not just about a faith, but about a rich art historical tradition that occupies a subcultural, even subaltern, place in the U.S. because of its strong association with nonwhite populations. Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic, 8 May 2018 And now, as a very junior subaltern among 435 House members, Miller wanted to do something about that. George Weigel, National Review, 6 Oct. 2017
In other words, what the organizers had prompted was a realization that racial oppression has two, not one, regimes of violence: the violence that subjugates the subaltern and the violence that subjugates the slave, or the black. Frank B. Wilderson Iii, Harper's Magazine, 30 Mar. 2020 The queen – then Princess Elizabeth – became an honorary second subaltern of the Army in 1945. Caitlin O'kane, CBS News, 4 June 2019 The visiting dignitary is Queen Elizabeth — now perhaps better known as the Queen Mother — and the young ATS subaltern is her daughter, the future Queen Elizabeth II. Lily Rothman, Time, 25 May 2018 See More

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

Word History



Late Latin subalternus, from Latin sub- + alternus alternate, from alter other (of two) — more at alter

First Known Use


1566, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1605, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of subaltern was in 1566

Dictionary Entries Near subaltern

Cite this Entry

“Subaltern.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Feb. 2023.

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