How to pronounce suboptimal (audio)
variants or sub-optimal
: less than optimal : not at the best possible level
suboptimal performance
suboptimal conditions/results/solutions
received suboptimal care
… such is life at the sharp end of evolution, where the pursuit of self-interest frequently leads to suboptimal outcomes for all concerned.The Economist
Training at sub-optimal levels fatigues you and wastes time you could have spent at the high levels you hope to achieve.Rick Crawford
suboptimally adverb
or sub-optimally
… countless companies perform suboptimally. They fail to capitalize on a unique competitive advantage. Erik Matson

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web In other ways, the sweater-wearing former nuclear engineer is remembered as a suboptimal messenger for environmentalism. Kate Aronoff, The New Republic, 18 Apr. 2023 That ended a run of suboptimal travel for players and management. Globe Staff,, 3 Apr. 2023 Midgley then eliminated a number of neighboring elements out of hand for either being too volatile or having a suboptimal boiling point, which led his search to the bottom right corner. Steven Johnson, New York Times, 15 Mar. 2023 This can be caused by all sorts of factors, including suboptimal blood flow. Amber Smith, Discover Magazine, 21 Dec. 2022 Captive lenders have options for borrowers with suboptimal credit, too. Elizabeth Rivelli, Car and Driver, 15 Dec. 2022 Researchers estimated that by the beginning of the 21st century, temperatures had already caused the loss of 44 hours of sleep because of suboptimal nighttime temperatures, with 11 nights of short sleep per person. Margaret Osborne, Smithsonian Magazine, 6 June 2022 The challenge is so frustrating for brands that most programs adopt a suboptimal design based on a simple earn and burn structure. Christian Selchau-hansen, Forbes, 18 Mar. 2022 The catalog of human fallibilities that Mr. Bezzerides assembles begins with an account of our suboptimal dentition. Adrian Woolfson, WSJ, 31 May 2021 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'suboptimal.' 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

1901, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of suboptimal was in 1901

Dictionary Entries Near suboptimal

Cite this Entry

“Suboptimal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 31 May. 2023.

Medical Definition


sub·​op·​ti·​mal ˌsəb-ˈäp-tə-məl How to pronounce suboptimal (audio)
: less than optimal
a suboptimal diet
a suboptimal dose of a drug
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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