[suh b-sur-vee-uh nt]


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 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. 2019

Examples from the Web for subservient

Contemporary Examples of subservient

Historical Examples of subservient

  • We must separate the fanciful from the real, or at least make the one subservient to the other.

  • I loved him so that I could crush every other feeling down, subservient to my passion.

    The Golden Woman

    Ridgwell Cullum

  • Marta by the trembling, subservient Archbishop of his creation.

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

    Molly Bawn

    Margaret Wolfe Hamilton

  • Politics are no métier for a woman, or they should be subservient to something else.

    Mary Gray

    Katharine Tynan

British Dictionary definitions for subservient



obsequious in behaviour or attitude
serving as a means to an end
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 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