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[suh b-sur-vee-uh nt] /səbˈsɜr vi ənt/
serving or acting in a subordinate capacity; subordinate.
servile; excessively submissive; obsequious:
subservient persons; subservient conduct.
useful in promoting a purpose or end.
Origin of subservient
1625-35; < Latin subservient- (stem of subserviēns, present participle of subservīre to subserve), equivalent to sub- sub- + servi-, stem of servīre to serve + -ent -ent
Related forms
subservience, subserviency, noun
subserviently, adverb
unsubservient, adjective
unsubserviently, adverb Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for subservience
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Mr. Berridge stood a figure of subservience in the background.

    The Wonder J. D. Beresford
  • And if they would not assume positions of subservience, they must be destroyed.

    Eight Keys to Eden Mark Irvin Clifton
  • Not a few of the Romans were chafing at their leader's subservience to a "Barbarian" queen.

    Famous Sea Fights John Richard Hale
  • Pius IV had carried to an extreme his subservience to Philip.

  • They have not a touch of subservience in their manner or their talk.

    The Spirit of America Henry Van Dyke
  • In that moment, she was not aware that she stood between duty and subservience.

    The Homesteader Oscar Micheaux
  • All that her weakness and subservience had caused, continued, and at last the event of the night.

    The Homesteader Oscar Micheaux
  • She was in the first subservience to that power which feeds the streams of human history.

British Dictionary definitions for subservience


obsequious in behaviour or attitude
serving as a means to an end
a less common word for subordinate (sense 2)
Derived Forms
subserviently, adverb
subservience, subserviency, noun
Word Origin
C17: from Latin subserviēns complying with, from subservīre to subserve
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for subservience



1630s, "useful, serviceable," from Latin subservientem (nominative subserviens), present participle of subservire "assist, lend support," from sub "under" (see sub-) + servire "serve" (see serve). The meaning "slavishly obedient" is first recorded 1794.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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