su·​pine | \ su̇-ˈpīn How to pronounce supine (audio) , attrib also ˈsü-ˌpīn \

Definition of supine

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : 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


su·​pine | \ ˈsü-ˌpīn How to pronounce supine (audio) \

Definition of supine (Entry 2 of 2)

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

Other Words from supine


supinely \ su̇-​ˈpīn-​lē How to pronounce supine (audio) \ adverb
supineness \ su̇-​ˈpīn-​nəs How to pronounce supine (audio) \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for 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

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.

Examples of supine in a Sentence

Adjective He was lying supine on the couch. a supine legislature that is afraid to take action
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective During the study, participants were supine, or lying on their backs, for 72 straight hours, which created enough pressure to alter the shape of the eyeball. Ashley Strickland, CNN, 9 Dec. 2021 The bill would bar school personnel and police stationed on campus from physically restraining students in potentially life-threatening ways, like restricting their breathing or using a prone or supine restraint. NBC News, 5 Oct. 2021 France is worn out, she is made to be supine not made to fight. Mark Mazower, The New York Review of Books, 16 Jan. 2020 Safe Act would bar school personnel and police stationed on campus from physically restraining students in potentially life-threatening ways, like restricting their breathing or using a prone or supine restraint. NBC News, 26 May 2021 It is performed for supine audiences who are encouraged to doze off during the proceedings., 24 Mar. 2021 The most bizarre attraction was a merry-go-round, where the ladies, in all their finery, sat on supine Chinese mannequins and the gents rode serpent-like creatures. Washington Post, 9 Dec. 2020 Antitrust regulators have been supine for two decades, a key reason—along with winner-takes-all technology—for the decline in competition in the U.S. James Mackintosh, WSJ, 19 Jan. 2020 Perhaps the most depressing reflection sparked by both books is on the supine nature of otherwise intelligent observers in the face of the coarse brutalities of dictatorships. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, 16 Dec. 2019 See More

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

First Known Use of supine


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for supine


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


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

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The first known use of supine was in the 15th century

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Cite this Entry

“Supine.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for supine


su·​pine | \ su̇-ˈpīn How to pronounce supine (audio) , ˈsü-ˌpīn How to pronounce supine (audio) \

Medical Definition of supine

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


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