[suh b-sur-vee-uh nt]
  1. serving or acting in a subordinate capacity; subordinate.
  2. servile; excessively submissive; obsequious: subservient persons; subservient conduct.
  3. 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 formssub·ser·vi·ence, sub·ser·vi·en·cy, nounsub·ser·vi·ent·ly, adverbun·sub·ser·vi·ent, adjectiveun·sub·ser·vi·ent·ly, adverb Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for subserviency

Historical Examples of subserviency

  • But she doesn't understand the subserviency of Englishmen to their elders.

  • There comes a sense of subserviency and subordination that can not be thrown off.


    Calvin Elliott

  • Some of his subserviency was immediately put into his pocket.

  • This unquestionably involved a subserviency of the beautiful in music.

    Verdi: Man and Musician

    Frederick James Crowest

  • A spirit of subserviency is not favorable to the growth of the highest qualities.

British Dictionary definitions for subserviency


  1. obsequious in behaviour or attitude
  2. serving as a means to an end
  3. a less common word for subordinate (def. 2)
Derived Formssubserviently, adverbsubservience or subserviency, noun

Word Origin for subservient

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

Word Origin and History for subserviency



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