sub·​due səb-ˈdü How to pronounce subdue (audio)
subdued; subduing

transitive verb

: to conquer and bring into subjection : vanquish
: to bring under control especially by an exertion of the will : curb
subdued my foolish fears
: to bring (land) under cultivation
: to reduce the intensity or degree of : tone down
subduer noun
Choose the Right Synonym for subdue

conquer, vanquish, defeat, subdue, reduce, overcome, overthrow mean to get the better of by force or strategy.

conquer implies gaining mastery of.

Caesar conquered Gaul

vanquish implies a complete overpowering.

vanquished the enemy and ended the war

defeat does not imply the finality or completeness of vanquish which it otherwise equals.

the Confederates defeated the Union forces at Manassas

subdue implies a defeating and suppression.

subdued the native tribes after years of fighting

reduce implies a forcing to capitulate or surrender.

the city was reduced after a month-long siege

overcome suggests getting the better of with difficulty or after hard struggle.

overcame a host of bureaucratic roadblocks

overthrow stresses the bringing down or destruction of existing power.

violently overthrew the old regime

Examples of subdue in a Sentence

The troops were finally able to subdue the rebel forces after many days of fighting. He was injured while trying to subdue a violent drunk. She struggled to subdue her fears.
Recent Examples on the Web The war in Ukraine — a full-scale invasion launched by Putin in February 2022, intended to swiftly subdue Russia’s smaller neighbor — turbocharged the Kremlin’s crackdown on any form of domestic dissent. Laura King, Los Angeles Times, 16 Feb. 2024 The other was a man who was struck by a stray bullet while sitting in a vehicle in his driveway, 60 yards from where police were attempting to subdue a suspect. Bay Area News Group, The Mercury News, 13 Feb. 2024 Unable to nose any farther forward, the agents piled out of the first and third SUV and tried to subdue the crowd. Elliot Ackerman, WIRED, 12 Feb. 2024 One of the disruptors made it all the way to the San Francisco 49ers' sideline, where he was subdued, while his partner in crime — literally, this is trespassing — was tackled by a team of security staffers near the 10-yard line by the Chiefs’ end zone. Chris Bumbaca, USA TODAY, 12 Feb. 2024 Midway through the second half, a usually energetic Bill Self sat subdued on the bench while holding his head in his hands. Shreyas Laddha, Kansas City Star, 12 Feb. 2024 Several coaches pinned the fan up against a wall, subduing him. Richard J. Marcus, San Diego Union-Tribune, 11 Feb. 2024 The Fed hopes to see services prices cool, enabling the Fed to cut interest rate with greater confidence that inflation is subdued. Simon Moore, Forbes, 10 Feb. 2024 Small shot has no place here, except for a handful of 5 or 6 steel shot swatter loads designed to subdue cripples. M.d. Johnson, Field & Stream, 8 Feb. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'subdue.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English sodewen, subduen, from Anglo-French soduire, subdure to lead astray, overcome, arrest (influenced in form and meaning by Latin subdere to subject), from Latin subducere to withdraw, remove stealthily

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of subdue was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near subdue

Cite this Entry

“Subdue.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


sub·​due səb-ˈd(y)ü How to pronounce subdue (audio)
subdued; subduing
: to overcome in battle
subdued the enemy
: to bring under control especially by willpower
subdued his fears
: to reduce the brightness or strength of : soften
tried to subdue the light
subduer noun

More from Merriam-Webster on subdue

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