verb (used without object), subbed, sub·bing.

to act as a substitute for another.

verb (used with object), subbed, sub·bing.

Photography. to coat (a film or plate) with a substratum.

Origin of sub

by shortening of words prefixed with sub-

Regional variation note


supplemental unemployment benefits.


a prefix occurring originally in loanwords from Latin (subject; subtract; subvert; subsidy); on this model, freely attached to elements of any origin and used with the meaning “under,” “below,” “beneath” (subalpine; substratum), “slightly,” “imperfectly,” “nearly” (subcolumnar; subtropical), “secondary,” “subordinate” (subcommittee; subplot).
  1. a prefix indicating a basic compound: subacetate; subcarbonate; subnitrate.
  2. a prefix indicating that the element is present in a relatively small proportion, i.e., in a low oxidation state: subchloride; suboxide.

Origin of sub-

< Latin, combining form representing sub (preposition); akin to Greek hypó; see hypo-

sub. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for sub

Contemporary Examples of sub

Historical Examples of sub

  • There are four other beetleheads on the sub and they carry disintegrators.

    Operation Earthworm

    Joe Archibald

  • "That he 'll not get a sou more with my consent," broke in the sub.

    Confessions Of Con Cregan

    Charles James Lever

  • You'll probably see me relegated to the scrub, sub or dub class.

  • "Boy Scouts of the Sea," watch us do our partIf a raider or a sub.

    With the Colors

    Everard Jack Appleton

  • In the mornin' he comes around just like nothin' had happened and wants to know if I'll sub.


    Sewell Ford

British Dictionary definitions for sub



short for several words beginning with sub-See subaltern, subeditor, submarine, subordinate, subscription, substandard, substitute, substratum (def. 6)
British informal an advance payment of wages or salaryFormal term: subsistence allowance

verb subs, subbing or subbed

(intr) to serve as a substitute
(intr) informal to act as a substitute (for)
British informal to grant or receive (an advance payment of wages or salary)
(tr) informal short for subedit
(tr) photog to apply a substratum to (a film or plate base)


abbreviation for

subito (in music)



situated under or beneathsubterranean
secondary in rank; subordinatesubeditor
falling short of; less than or imperfectlysubarctic; subhuman
forming a subdivision or subordinate part of a wholesubcommittee
(in chemistry)
  1. indicating that a compound contains a relatively small proportion of a specified elementsuboxide
  2. indicating that a salt is basic saltsubacetate

Word Origin for sub-

from Latin sub
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

Word Origin and History for sub

shortened form of substitute, 1830; the verb in this sense is from 1853. Related: Subbed; subbing. From 1917 as short for submarine (n.).


word-forming element meaning "under," from Latin preposition sub "under" (also "close to, up to, towards"), from a variant form (*(s)up-, perhaps representing *ex-upo-) of PIE root *upo- "from below," hence "turning upward, upward, up, up from under, over, beyond" (cf. Sanskrit upa "near, under, up to, on," Greek hypo "under," Gothic iup, Old Norse, Old English upp "up, upward," Hittite up-zi "rises"). Used as a prefix and in various combinations.

The original meaning is now obscured in many words from Latin ( suggest, suspect, subject, etc.). The prefix is active in Modern English, sometimes meaning "subordinate" (as in subcontinent, first recorded 1863) or "inferior" (a sense first attested 1963).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for sub



Below; under; beneath:subcutaneous.
Subordinate; secondary:subinfection.
Less than completely or normally; nearly; almost:subfertility.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Science definitions for sub


A prefix that means “underneath or lower” (as in subsoil), “a subordinate or secondary part of something else” (as in subphylum.), or “less than completely” (as in subtropical.)
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.