adjective sub·ser·vi·ent \ səb-ˈsər-vē-ənt \
|Updated on: 17 Jul 2018

Definition of subservient

1 : useful in an inferior capacity : subordinate
2 : serving to promote some end
3 : obsequiously submissive : truckling



Examples of subservient in a Sentence

  1. Henson and Stowe did become close friends, and Stowe herself drew direct parallels between Uncle Tom and Josiah Henson. Sadder still, the term "Uncle Tom" has since taken on negative, minstrel-show connotations of subservient blacks kowtowing to whites, which is unfortunate, because it undermines the triumph that was Josiah Henson's life. He was no caricature, and his achievements were real. —Will FergusonBeauty Tips From Moose Jaw2004
  2. Sally Boysen, a psychologist at Ohio State University, probed the degree to which a chimp's ability to reason is subservient to the animal's desires. —Eugene LindenTime6 Sept. 1999
  3. That's why many believe that I have the right to preach but not to pastor. For a woman to be a pastor would mean that men would have to submit and be subservient to a woman. —Chryll CrewsMs.January/February 1998
  4. As for a "European Europe," allied with but not subservient to the United States, providing for its own defense and diplomacy and practicing detente with Moscow, de Gaulle did not achieve it in his lifetime, but there was at least a beginning. —Stanley HoffmannNew York Times Book Review20 Mar. 1983
  5. She refused to take a subservient role in their marriage.

Recent Examples of subservient from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'subservient.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

How Should You Use subservient?

Since sub- means "below", it emphasizes the lower position of the person in the subservient one. Soldiers of a given rank are always subservient to those of a higher rank; this subservience is symbolized by the requirement that they salute their superior at every opportunity. Women have often been forced into subservient relationships with men. A small nation may feel subservient to its more powerful neighbor, obliged to obey even when it doesn't want to. So subservience usually brings with it a good dose of resentment.

Origin and Etymology of subservient

Latin subservient-, subserviens, present participle of subservire — see subserve

Synonym Discussion of subservient

subservient, servile, slavish, obsequious mean showing or characterized by extreme compliance or abject obedience. subservient implies the cringing manner of one very conscious of a subordinate position.
    • domestic help was expected to be properly subservient
servile suggests the mean or fawning behavior of a slave.
    • a political boss and his entourage of servile hangers-on
slavish suggests abject or debased servility.
    • the slavish status of migrant farm workers
obsequious implies fawning or sycophantic compliance and exaggerated deference of manner.
    • waiters who are obsequious in the presence of celebrities

SUBSERVIENT Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of subservient for English Language Learners

  • : very willing or too willing to obey someone else

  • : less important than something or someone else

SUBSERVIENT Defined for Kids


adjective sub·ser·vi·ent \ səb-ˈsər-vē-ənt \

Definition of subservient for Students

: submissive
  • If Martha had been a well-trained fine young lady's maid she would have been more subservient
  • —Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

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