sub·​al·​tern | \ sə-ˈbȯl-tərn How to pronounce subaltern (audio) , especially British ˈsə-bəl-tərn \

Definition of subaltern

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : particular with reference to a related universal proposition "some S is P" is a subaltern proposition to "all S is P"



Definition of subaltern (Entry 2 of 2)

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

Examples of subaltern in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective 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, "Speech and Slavery in the West Indies," 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, "American white people really hate being called “white people”," 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, "The bold, vivid worlds of Rachel Kushner’s novels," 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, "Getting Into the Holy Spirit," 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, "Remembering Congressman John Miller," 6 Oct. 2017 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun 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, "Color Theory," 30 Mar. 2020 The queen – then Princess Elizabeth – became an honorary second subaltern of the Army in 1945. Caitlin O'kane, CBS News, "Was Queen Elizabeth II really an army mechanic during WWII?," 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, "The World War II Auto Mechanic in This Photo Is Queen Elizabeth II. Here's the Story Behind the Picture," 25 May 2018

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.

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First Known Use of subaltern


1566, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1605, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for subaltern


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

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The first known use of subaltern was in 1566

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Cite this Entry

“Subaltern.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for subaltern



English Language Learners Definition of subaltern

: a junior officer in the British army

More from Merriam-Webster on subaltern

Britannica English: Translation of subaltern for Arabic Speakers

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