adjective su·pine \ su̇-ˈpīn , attrib also ˈsü-ˌpīn \
|Updated on: 26 May 2018

Definition of supine

1 a : lying on the back or with the face upward
b : marked by supination
2 : exhibiting indolent or apathetic inertia or passivity; especially : mentally or morally slack
3 archaic : leaning or sloping backward


play \su̇-ˈpīn-lē\ adverb


play \su̇-ˈpīn-nəs\ noun

Examples of supine in a Sentence

  1. He was lying supine on the couch.

  2. a supine legislature that is afraid to take action

Recent Examples of supine from the Web

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The Difference Between prone, supine, and prostrate

In literal use, prone and supine indicate contrasting positions of the body: a person lying prone is facing downward while a person lying supine is face up.

Both prone and supine also have meanings that have nothing to do with physical position. Supine, in keeping with the image of one lying comfortably idle, can be applied to those who are willing to be controlled by others, or who show mental or moral slackness, as in "supine obedience" or "supine inaction."

Prone is used in the sense of "having a tendency or inclination," as in "prone to worry" or "accident-prone." This usage is similar to such words as apt, liable, or likely (as in "apt to be late"), but in many instances prone implies a vulnerability to attack or damaging influence, in keeping with the image of one lying face down and unable to see what is approaching.

The word prostrate too has meanings to do with body position. It is used with the very specific meaning of "stretched out with face on the ground in adoration or submission," but is also used simply to mean "lying flat." In figurative use, prostrate means "completely overcome and lacking vitality, will, or power to rise," as in "prostrate in fear."

So while prone, supine, and prostrate have specific meanings with regard to body position, they also come with situational connotations in many cases: prone suggests exposure or vulnerability; supine connotes a position of weakness or passivity; and prostrate implies submission in the face of being overcome.

Origin and Etymology of supine

Middle English suppyne, from Latin supinus; akin to Latin sub under, up to — more at up

Synonym Discussion of supine

prone, supine, prostrate, recumbent mean lying down. prone implies a position with the front of the body turned toward the supporting surface.
    • push-ups require a prone position
supine implies lying on one's back and suggests inertness or abjectness.
    • lying supine on the couch
prostrate implies lying full-length as in submission, defeat, or physical collapse.
    • a runner fell prostrate at the finish line
recumbent implies the posture of one sleeping or resting.
    • a patient comfortably recumbent in a hospital bed
inactive, idle, inert, passive, supine mean not engaged in work or activity. inactive applies to anyone or anything not in action or in operation or at work.
    • on inactive status as an astronaut
    • inactive accounts
idle applies to persons that are not busy or occupied or to their powers or their implements.
    • workers were idle in the fields
inert as applied to things implies powerlessness to move or to affect other things; as applied to persons it suggests an inherent or habitual indisposition to activity.
    • inert ingredients in drugs
    • an inert citizenry
passive implies immobility or lack of normally expected response to an external force or influence and often suggests deliberate submissiveness or self-control.
    • passive resistance
supine applies only to persons and commonly implies abjectness or indolence.
    • a supine willingness to play the fool

Other Grammar and Linguistics Terms



noun su·pine \ ˈsü-ˌpīn \

Definition of supine

1 : a Latin verbal noun having an accusative of purpose in -um and an ablative of specification in -u
2 : an English infinitive with to

Origin and Etymology of supine

Middle English supyn, from Late Latin supinum, from Latin, neuter of supinus, adjective

SUPINE Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of supine for English Language Learners

  • : lying on your back with your face upward

  • : willing to be controlled by others : weak or passive

Medical Dictionary


adjective su·pine \ su̇-ˈpīn , ˈsü-ˌpīn \

medical Definition of supine

1 : lying on the back or with the face upward
2 : marked by supination

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