sub·​ser·​vi·​ent | \ səb-ˈsər-vē-ənt How to pronounce subservient (audio) \

Definition of subservient

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

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Other Words from subservient

subserviently adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for 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

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.

Examples of subservient in a Sentence

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 Ferguson, Beauty Tips From Moose Jaw, 2004 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 Linden, Time, 6 Sept. 1999 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 Crews, Ms., January/February 1998 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 Hoffmann, New York Times Book Review, 20 Mar. 1983 She refused to take a subservient role in their marriage.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Even if that's true, Miller had to play his cards the right way and not get crosswise with Kush or be seen as subservient to Arizona. Jeff Metcalfe, azcentral, "Reluctant to leave WAC, Arizona State has Arizona to thank for pushing move into Pac-8," 22 June 2019 If federal courts may compel states to reinstate Medicaid providers, the political branches become subservient to the judiciary and the state-federal relationship is abrogated. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Behind the Supreme Court’s Dodge," 12 Dec. 2018 Speaking up can also risk financial troubles, since many congregations of nuns are financially subservient to priests and bishops. Tim Sullivan, The Seattle Times, "AP finds long history of nuns abused by priests in India," 1 Jan. 2019 At a breakfast with Stoltenberg before the summit, Trump redirected a question about his looming meeting with Putin by suggesting that a natural gas pipeline project has made Germany subservient to Russia. Eli Stokols,, "Trump disrupts NATO summit with blasts at allies, especially Germany, and new defense spending demands," 11 July 2018 Throughout its history, the Russian Orthodox Church had been subservient to the state and an unshakable supporter of autocracy. Michael Khodarkovsky, WSJ, "Russia Wages a Religious War Against Ukraine," 30 Sep. 2018 Street vendors warn androids away for fear of scaring off customers, even though dozens of subservient androids wander every street. Kyle Orland, Ars Technica, "Detroit: Become Human review: Robotic in all of the wrong ways," 24 May 2018 The series involves a world where some unsavory men brainwash a coven of witches into subservient, suburban housewives. Tracy Brown,, "DC's Vertigo to relaunch with new name, logo and seven comic-book series," 7 June 2018 Presidents in the 20th century were subservient to the PRI. The Economist, "How Andrés Manuel López Obrador will remake Mexico," 23 June 2018

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.

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First Known Use of subservient

circa 1626, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for subservient

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

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Statistics for subservient

Last Updated

3 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for subservient

The first known use of subservient was circa 1626

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More Definitions for subservient



English Language Learners Definition of subservient

: very willing or too willing to obey someone else
formal : less important than something or someone else


sub·​ser·​vi·​ent | \ səb-ˈsər-vē-ənt How to pronounce subservient (audio) \

Kids Definition of subservient

: 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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Comments on subservient

What made you want to look up subservient? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


characterized by aphorism

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