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sub·​hu·​man ˌsəb-ˈhyü-mən How to pronounce subhuman (audio)
: less than human: such as
: failing to attain the level (as of morality or intelligence) associated with normal human beings
: unsuitable to or unfit for human beings
subhuman living conditions
: of or relating to a taxonomic group lower than that of humans
the subhuman primates


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: a subhuman being

Examples of subhuman in a Sentence

Adjective The prisoners suffered subhuman treatment. years of grinding poverty that had reduced them to a subhuman existence
Recent Examples on the Web
The subhuman invaders, as Raspail describes them, wallow in their own feces and delight in trampling over the misguided liberals who thought to welcome and feed them. Katherine Stewart, The New Republic, 10 Aug. 2023 Many Black migrants are pushed to the fringes of border cities to wait in subhuman conditions. Arelis R. Hernández, Washington Post, 11 Mar. 2023 At the same time, a loop seemed to start playing in my mind, with hundreds of voices from my past telling me that transgender people were subhuman. Lara Americo, New York Times, 15 Apr. 2020 Even more a part of this notion is the assumption that journalists, reporters, and editors are subhuman and expected to be on the periphery of the human experience. Sara Li, Teen Vogue, 6 Mar. 2020 But did Americans really need to hear these words to know that Trump considers immigrants and brown people to be subhuman? Catherine Rampell, The Denver Post, 22 July 2019 Derogatory language — where protesters term officers dogs and gangsters, and police call demonstrators subhuman and cockroaches — has become a hallmark of Hong Kong’s protests as clashes have escalated. Washington Post, 4 Nov. 2019 All around her, in the heart of Hollywood, people were living in subhuman conditions, sprawled beside storefronts and at bus stops. Steve Lopezcolumnist, Los Angeles Times, 4 Oct. 2019 Not long after Hefzur Rahman enrolled at his new school in Michigan three years ago, his fifth-grade class studied the subhuman conditions that enslaved Africans endured in overcrowded ships bound for North America. Miriam Jordan, New York Times, 22 Sep. 2019
The brawl, which Ah Sahm wins handily, is the kind of thing that a nonwhite person fantasizes about after being treated as subhuman—a kick-ass solution to a miasmic attack. Jasper Lo, The New Yorker, 12 Sep. 2023 And the seriousness is an important part of the story, which, in large part, is about magic-wielding people who have been enslaved and are viewed as subhuman so that the populace is okay with using them like tools to support the kingdom. Andrew Webster, The Verge, 22 June 2023 In Italian architect Massimo Adario’s room, Murano glass figurines produced in the 1920s and depicting racist caricatures of Black, Asian, Middle Eastern, and Indigenous people as subhuman were placed on display in an incongruously chic vitrine, with no readily accessible context. Camille Okhio, ELLE Decor, 1 May 2023 Whatever its form, the human future portends to be more grim than Gramsci imagined, as the great powers already seem prepared to preside over the mass culling of human populations in the planet’s increasingly uninhabitable zones—the subaltern downgraded to the subhuman. Thomas Meaney, The New Republic, 30 Mar. 2022 Not as superhuman or subhuman; just as human. Isabella Cueto, STAT, 28 Mar. 2022 Uncivilized, animalistic, subhuman. Chloe Angyal, Marie Claire, 22 Apr. 2021 Since then, each subsequent disaster has unveiled another facet of the social safety net’s inadequacies as stories about Puerto Rico’s elderly living in subhuman conditions become frequent segments of local newscasts and tabloids. Arelis R. Hernández, Washington Post, 13 Jan. 2023 Before the judge formally sentenced Cruz in November, victims’ families spent two days berating him as evil, a coward, a monster and a subhuman who deserves a painful death. Freida Frisaro, Sun Sentinel, 19 Jan. 2023 See More

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

Word History

First Known Use


1790, in the meaning defined above


circa 1812, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of subhuman was in 1790

Dictionary Entries Near subhuman

Cite this Entry

“Subhuman.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Sep. 2023.

Medical Definition


: of or relating to a taxonomic group lower than that of humans
the subhuman primates
subhuman noun
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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