subservient

adjective

sub·​ser·​vi·​ent səb-ˈsər-vē-ənt How to pronounce subservient (audio)
1
: useful in an inferior capacity : subordinate
2
: serving to promote some end
3
: obsequiously submissive : truckling
subserviently adverb

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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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web To entertain viewers, though, ESPN needed its anchors to be entertaining — a tricky proposition for a network that was billing itself as the Worldwide Leader in Sports and was therefore a place where personalities had to remain subservient to the bigger brand. Jonathan Mahler, New York Times, 29 Feb. 2024 The Shōgun model of femininity, according to which the women are ostensibly subservient but capable of triggering pivotal upheavals, offers juicy material for Hoshi, heartbreaking and unreadable, and Nikaido, who makes her character manipulative and fiercely maternal. Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter, 12 Feb. 2024 As such, a dog that's subservient, loyal and playful is a much better housemate than an aloof, temperamental wolf. Max Bennett, Discover Magazine, 7 Feb. 2024 Academy members still have a troubling tendency to reward Black women for playing supporting, even subservient roles in other people’s stories — and little else. Kevinisha Walker, Los Angeles Times, 9 Mar. 2024 The environment is made subservient to the polemic. Jonathon Keats, Forbes, 12 Feb. 2024 That means staying devoted to housework and taking care of the children — and being subservient to their working husbands. Taylor Nicioli, CNN, 27 Feb. 2024 The larger mysteries of the show are subservient to the arc of the central relationship. Ben Rosenstock, TIME, 2 Feb. 2024 And Japan’s robots tend to follow the subservient female gender stereotype. Mark Paterson, The Conversation, 26 Jan. 2024

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

Word History

Etymology

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

First Known Use

circa 1626, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of subservient was circa 1626

Dictionary Entries Near subservient

Cite this Entry

“Subservient.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/subservient. Accessed 18 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

subservient

adjective
sub·​ser·​vi·​ent səb-ˈsər-vē-ənt How to pronounce subservient (audio)
1
: useful in an inferior capacity : subordinate
2
: inclined or willing to submit to others : submissive
subserviently adverb
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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