[ in-feer-ee-er ]
/ ɪnˈfɪər i ər /
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See synonyms for: inferior / inferiority / inferiorly on Thesaurus.com

a person inferior to another or others, as in rank or merit.
Also called subscript. Printing. a letter, number, or symbol written or printed low on a line of text.Compare superior (def. 12).
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Origin of inferior

First recorded in 1400–50; late Middle English, from Latin, equivalent to infer(us) “lower” (cf. under) + -ior comparative suffix


in·fe·ri·or·i·ty [in-feer-ee-awr-i-tee, -or-], /ɪnˌfɪər iˈɔr ɪ ti, -ˈɒr-/, nounin·fe·ri·or·ly, adverbqua·si-in·fe·ri·or, adjectivesub·in·fe·ri·or, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does inferior mean?

Inferior most commonly means lesser or lower in quality or worth.

Inferior is commonly applied to things that are considered not as good as other similar things, especially products. However, inferior is also used to describe how some people are treated as lesser than others. In both cases, it is the opposite of superior, meaning better. Inferior is also used in more specific ways in sciences like anatomy, botany, and astronomy to describe a low position.

Example: The new, more expensive model is inferior to the old model in every way—even the packaging is not as good.

Where does inferior come from?

The first records of inferior come from the 1400s. It derives from the Latin inferus, meaning “low.” The suffix -ior is used to form comparative adjectives (as in ulterior and junior).

The specific meaning of inferior often depends on what it’s applied to. If a product is inferior to another one, it means it’s not as good. If a device has inferior battery life, it means its battery doesn’t last as long as other devices. If a team is said to have inferior talent, it means it has less talent than other teams. If a soldier’s rank is inferior to another soldier, it means it is lower.

When inferior is applied to people, especially classes or groups of people, it is being used in an offensive way. When people treat other people as inferior, it means they are judging them on some aspect of their identity that they consider lesser than their own. Racists treat people as inferior based on the color of their skin—and consider themselves superior.

When used in a scientific context, inferior often has a specific meaning related to the position of something. In anatomy, inferior is used to describe a body part that is located in a lower position or, even more specifically, toward the feet. In botany, it is used in much the same way, except of course that it refers to plant parts. In astronomy, describing something as inferior indicates that it is below the horizon.

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What are some other forms related to inferior?

  • inferiority (noun)
  • inferiorly (adjective)
  • quasi-inferior (adjective)
  • subinferior (adjective)

What are some synonyms for inferior?

What are some words that share a root or word element with inferior

What are some words that often get used in discussing inferior?

How is inferior used in real life?

Inferior is commonly used in the comparison of two things to state that one of them is of lower quality than the other, such as by customers unhappy with their purchases. It is also used to describe how certain groups are treated as lesser than others.



Try using inferior!

Is inferior used correctly in the following sentence?

If we keep releasing inferior products that aren’t up to our normal standards, our customers are going to notice.

How to use inferior in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for inferior

/ (ɪnˈfɪərɪə) /

an inferior person
printing an inferior character

Derived forms of inferior

inferiority (ɪnˌfɪərɪˈɒrɪtɪ), nouninferiorly, adverb

Word Origin for inferior

C15: from Latin: lower, from inferus low
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