sub·​hu·​man | \ ˌsəb-ˈhyü-mən How to pronounce subhuman (audio) , -ˈyü- \

Definition of subhuman

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: less than human: such as
a : failing to attain the level (as of morality or intelligence) associated with normal human beings
b : unsuitable to or unfit for human beings subhuman living conditions
c : of or relating to a taxonomic group lower than that of humans the subhuman primates



Definition of subhuman (Entry 2 of 2)

: a subhuman being

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Synonyms for subhuman

Synonyms: Adjective

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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: Adjective 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, "Four Puberties, One Baby," 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, "Journalistic Objectivity Isn’t Realistic, Young Reporters Say," 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, "Rampell: Trump’s immigration policies speak louder than his racist, xenophobic words," 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, "‘Dogs’ vs. ‘cockroaches’: On Hong Kong streets, language of genocide rears its head," 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, "Column: This small Italian city might have an answer for L.A.'s homeless catastrophe," 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, "Refugee Cutbacks Could Isolate Rohingya Children in the U.S.," 22 Sep. 2019 Africans were enslaved because of their low cost, subhuman status, and agricultural skills, Williams-Forson said. Lateshia Beachum, Washington Post, "Which came first: The fried chicken or the racist trope?," 24 Aug. 2019 It has been used by politicians to insult former first lady Michelle Obama, by U.S. presidents to criticize U.N. delegates and by the founders of modern political thought to term people with black skin as subhuman. Katie Mettler, Washington Post, "A black TV host’s co-anchor compared him to a gorilla. He responded with humanity.," 27 Aug. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun In their eyes, the Eldians are a stand-in for white people in Western countries, punished for the crimes of their ancestors’ empires and besieged by subhuman monsters trying to enter their land. Shaan Amin, The New Republic, "Why Attack on Titan Is the Alt-Right’s Favorite Manga," 16 Nov. 2020 Both Armenia and Azerbaijan have marshaled musicians, Twitter and Facebook partisans, officials and lobbyists to trumpet their cause and paint the other side as subhuman killers. Nabih Bulos, Los Angeles Times, "Around Nagorno-Karabakh, an all-out media war unfolds," 10 Nov. 2020 These descriptions aligned with the treatment of Black people’s bodies during the slave trade, where they were deemed both subhuman and at the same time having superhuman strength. USA Today, "The Legend of Bras-Coupé: How police turned a Black man into a villain to save themselves," 1 Oct. 2020 The voyages were planned with conditions so indelibly subhuman that deportees would never again want to return to the United States. Julia Preston, The New York Review of Books, "Deportation Nation," 22 Sep. 2020 Classes at school did not teach me about the internment of Japanese-Americans, nor about all of the rest of the groups deemed subhuman. TheWeek, "Daughters of the bomb," 6 Aug. 2020 Criminalizing black men and deeming them subhuman, more akin to beasts in the field than white men, served to justify the brutality they were dealt, Yancy said. Eliott C. Mclaughlin, CNN, "America's legacy of lynching isn't all history. Many say it's still happening today," 3 June 2020 These groups appear as subhumans to those taking the survey. Brian Resnick, Vox, "Donald Trump and the disturbing power of dehumanizing language," 14 Aug. 2018 Tuesday’s change broadens the hate speech rule to forbid likening entire religious groups to subhumans or vermin, without targeting a specific individual. Washington Post, "Twitter bans ‘dehumanizing’ posts toward religious groups," 9 July 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'subhuman.' 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 subhuman


1790, in the meaning defined above


circa 1812, in the meaning defined above

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The first known use of subhuman was in 1790

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Cite this Entry

“Subhuman.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for subhuman



English Language Learners Definition of subhuman

: not having or showing the level of kindness, intelligence, etc., that is expected of normal human beings
: not suitable for human beings


sub·​hu·​man | \ ˌsəb-ˈhyü-mən, ˈsəb-, -ˈyü- How to pronounce subhuman (audio) \

Medical Definition of subhuman

: of or relating to a taxonomic group lower than that of humans the subhuman primates

Other Words from subhuman

subhuman noun

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