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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. 2016.
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Examples from the Web for subservient
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Indeed the individual forms should always be subservient to the effect of the line or page.

    Letters and Lettering Frank Chouteau Brown
  • It will be subservient to the law of literature, which formerly received the law from it.

    Notre-Dame de Paris Victor Hugo
  • His pride made him fear to seem a parasite; and, too chivalrous to be disloyal, he was too haughty to be subservient.

    Godolphin, Complete Edward Bulwer-Lytton
  • We must separate the fanciful from the real, or at least make the one subservient to the other.

  • Any aspiring or subservient orator, such as Kalliklês is described, would know better than to address them in this strain.

  • Surely the stomach should be subservient to the mind; but it isn't.

    Molly Bawn Margaret Wolfe Hamilton
British Dictionary definitions for subservient


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 subservient

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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