Meaning of subaltern in English:


Pronunciation /ˈsʌb(ə)lt(ə)n/

Translate subaltern into Spanish


  • An officer in the British army below the rank of captain, especially a second lieutenant.

    ‘This paramilitary force, which in 1861 numbered only 120 troopers, was organised into small divisions in which two or three European officers and subalterns each commanded four to six Aboriginal troopers.’
    • ‘When he went on the road he drew impressive crowds ranging from the subalterns at his old military college to the minister of defence himself.’
    • ‘Then we had another suicide, one of our newly joined subalterns, which couldn't be put down to the war.’
    • ‘As a young subaltern in the Royal Tank Regiment he was unafraid to put it to use.’
    • ‘So you didn't know what you were going to get, what you were going to meet, and it was no wonder that the life expectancy of a subaltern in those days was about 10 weeks.’
    • ‘He was the subaltern who enacted Ferguson's orders in that abrasive, no - nonsense style of his.’
    • ‘According to Chesney, the Military Board and its system of control was so unsatisfactory that he began to plan a replacement for it on his arrival in India in 1850, whilst a very junior subaltern.’
    • ‘It approved the writing-off of the debts of seventeen officers including one of thirteen rupees owed by Winston Churchill, then a young cavalry subaltern.’
    • ‘Just listen to the evidence of Peter Allan: in 1942 he was a 20-year-old Scottish subaltern with the face of a faun and the build of a schoolboy scrum-half.’
    • ‘Senga had asked if she could come as part of the entourage because she was interested in the history of the place, but I caught her chatting up a Royal Scots subaltern in impossibly tight trews.’
    • ‘One mystery, however, goes unanswered: why was the Dad's Army platoon, properly the responsibility of a subaltern, commanded throughout by a captain?’
    second in command, second, number two, subordinate, junior, auxiliary, adjutant, lieutenant, subaltern, assistant, personal assistant, PA, aide, helper, right-hand man, henchman, underling


  • 1Of lower status.

    ‘the private tutor was a recognized subaltern part of the bourgeois family’
    • ‘The Bhakti-Sufi movement was another major pan-Indian articulation of this stream of subaltern dissent.’
    • ‘A new type of human being was rising up from its subaltern feudal origins and making its demands known.’
    • ‘I am interested in being a good enough humanities teacher in order to be a conduit (Wordsworth's word) between subaltern children and their subaltern teachers.’
    • ‘Kennedy seems to be suggesting that not only is the lack of a unified self a human condition, but it is also a subaltern condition, aggravated by racial animosity.’
    • ‘He can be said to have taken the Francophone novel from a subaltern condition and fashioned it according to a new, emergent, fresh spirit-a spirit of resistance and liberation.’
    • ‘The texts, which are the objects of sophisticated linguistic and discursive analysis, were produced by middle class literati, not by members of subaltern groups.’
    • ‘How can we make sense of such drastic variations of a subaltern woman's identity with the invaluable preciousness of a human life at stake?’
    • ‘In more specific terms, the subaltern woman can now locate her agency in film and televisual programming in her native nation-state.’
    • ‘So go educate yourself about cultural appropriation before you start talking about making pornos about your take on subaltern groups' religious beliefs and practices.’
    • ‘Many of the volumes draw inspiration from the so-called subaltern approach, which generally focuses on history from the bottom up.’
    • ‘And once the colonial powers had established their dominance, most of them settled for a subaltern role which left their local hegemony intact.’
    • ‘And they were accused of adopting the dominant perceptions about subaltern groups, such as women and racial minorities.’
    • ‘Her work is a model for scholars attempting to understand the political discourse and social imaginaries of subaltern communities of all kinds.’
    • ‘Robert's apparent movement away from his subaltern roots, however, is tempered by his conscious choice to identify as African American.’
    • ‘Although local elites are given agency and demonstrate a degree of control in the tourist discourse, subaltern locals involved in the tourist trade remain compliant.’
    • ‘They also represented the educated middle class Indian voice, generally ignored by the postcolonial critics who tend to project the colonial subject as subaltern and silent.’
    • ‘It should envision empowerment of all, the black nations of Africa, the underdogs of South Asia, the Dalits of India, the subaltern classes of the Latin and North America.’
    • ‘At a time when new trendy approaches to history such as the so-called subaltern studies claim to represent the cutting edge of social history, true quality social history stands out.’
    • ‘It is important to clarify that it need not be taken as an absolute fall from purity to find subaltern groups quite consciously shaping their practices to the contexts of tourist audiences or state occasions.’
    • ‘I am very interested in the idea of collaborative work, very interested in the way subaltern histories have given presence to several voices in history, and talked about the asymmetry of nationalism.’
  • 2Logic
    dated (of a proposition) implied by another proposition (e.g. as a particular affirmative is by a universal one), but not implying it in return.


Late 16th century (as an adjective): from late Latin subalternus, from Latin sub- ‘next below’ + alternus ‘every other’.