Definition of subservient in English:


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  • 1Prepared to obey others unquestioningly.

    ‘she was subservient to her parents’
    • ‘Was there some hidden agenda to keep all us colonial subjects docile and subservient to the Great Empire by brainwashing our smarter students?’
    • ‘She is meek and subservient to the needs of her God.’
    • ‘They are worshipers of the culture of death, whose goal is one thing: to convert the world to their religion, thereby making everyone in the world subservient to them, to their ideals, to their power.’
    • ‘When Kennedy ran for president in 1960 he went to great lengths to deny that his religious beliefs would make him subservient to the Catholic church and not the U.S. constitution.’
    • ‘Nigerian women are very subservient to their men, so the project encourages personal development so that the women can become more assertive in deciding on a better life for themselves and their families.’
    • ‘A court could likewise restrict a father's teaching his children that women must be subservient to men, since such speech might undermine the mother's authority.’
    • ‘If nothing else, this administration provides some space for the emergence of a post-civil rights black leadership not subservient to the Democratic Party.’
    • ‘Time after time they referred to his conflict of interest he owns most of Italy's commercial televisions stations and accused him of trying to make Europe subservient to the US.’
    • ‘Representatives who have been so nominated by their leaders, once elected to office as parliamentarians and councillors, become subservient to these leaders.’
    • ‘What this means is that Legco, which has little political power to begin with, is controlled by conservative forces subservient to Beijing and the Hong Kong government.’
    • ‘She said: ‘We are determined to reach our goal - to empower women to live their own lives and not be subservient to their husbands.’’
    • ‘Few things are harder for people who were traditionally subservient to their ‘elders and betters’ than publicly dissenting and struggling for rights.’
    • ‘The unit's public affairs officers are subservient to the information operations experts, military and defense officials said.’
    • ‘The village lad they ‘employ’ is very much subservient to his ‘employers’.’
    • ‘By handling this case involving a head of state, the Korean judiciary will become either truly independent from political pressure or subservient to its power.’
    • ‘The UK government should not become subservient to an all-powerful Frankfurt, just like local government has little power in the UK at the moment.’
    • ‘Once defeated, the Zulu king became subservient to British rule and lost control over the trade in the kingdom, including the trade in beads.’
    • ‘Meanwhile, Richard explained, ‘the archbishops of York didn't want to be subservient to the Archbishop of Canterbury’.’
    • ‘A form of marriage very popular among some groups then and now is the patriarchal, where the wife is subservient to the husband.’
    submissive, deferential, acquiescent, compliant, accommodating, obedient, dutiful, duteous, biddable, yielding, meek, docile, ductile, pliant, passive, unassertive, spiritless, subdued, humble, timid, mild, lamblike
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    1. 1.1Less important; subordinate.
      ‘he expected her career to become subservient to his’
      • ‘While accountants take confidentiality seriously, as a core value it is subservient to their attestation role.’
      • ‘In other words, democracy must be subservient to economic growth, and unchecked government power is good for us.’
      • ‘The increasing economic value of education is good news in a society that strives to make economic opportunity subservient to individual merit, rather than family background.’
      • ‘This case, the idea that the United States judicial system would be subservient or subordinate to an International Court of Justice, or the world court, is mined-boggling.’
      • ‘It is often the case in arts writing that it is seen as subservient to the art, that it's role can only be one of an obvious and didactic explicator of hidden meanings or that it should act as an interpreter of the artist's intentions.’
      • ‘It is very important to remember that the ornament is subservient to the garden and not the other way around.’
      • ‘In their case everything is subservient to the economy.’
      • ‘This is an insider economy, where the entire economy is subservient to the interests of a chosen few and their cronies.’
      • ‘Naturally, the role of the adaptive arm was initially subservient to the defensive functions of the pre-existing innate arm.’
      • ‘All they want to hear is that the arts are efficiently run, good for the economy and subservient to current dogmas of inclusivism and education.’
      • ‘The piano does play a more subservient role in the Rachmaninoff, as the cello carries the bulk of the melodic development, but Kay provides solid support throughout.’
      • ‘Amidst this, the economic policies of any one government will always be subservient to its quest to secure the external and internal sovereignty of the state.’
      • ‘In all these writers, the narrative self plays a subservient role to the voices of others; the self is rarely placed in a consistent dominating position over others.’
      • ‘We can ‘speak’ health and wealth into being because ‘the material world is subservient to the spiritual one’.’
      • ‘Even in the United States, where the private media are almost invariably subservient to corporate interests, journalists generally do not cite polls by pollsters who have publicly partisan connections.’
      • ‘There is good reason for this: Marx elucidated a theory of labor in which workers become subservient to the objects they produce, a theory where people are not exalted by their labor, but devalued by it.’
      • ‘Pearson spoke about how working women carry the puzzle of family life in their heads, their list of never-ending tasks and how their modest desire for time to themselves becomes subservient to everyone else's needs.’
      • ‘Pedagogical freedom is not an absolute; it is instrumental and subservient to the university's overarching interest in promoting free inquiry and debate.’
      • ‘Again, not much of a case here, because company agendas of cost-cutting, profit-chasing and shareholder value are not subservient to retaining skilled and committed workforces.’
      • ‘There is a need to look within because, in countries across the world, religion has become subservient to local tradition and women have been victimised in a patriarchal society.’
      subordinate, secondary, subsidiary, peripheral, marginal, ancillary, auxiliary, supplementary, inferior, immaterial
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    2. 1.2Serving as a means to an end.
      ‘the whole narration is subservient to the moral plan of exemplifying twelve virtues in twelve knights’
      • ‘For much of the twentieth century, mandarins of the law viewed the courts as agents of social change and the law as contingent, evolutionary, and ultimately subservient to political expediency.’
      ancillary, subordinate, secondary, supportive
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/səbˈsərvēənt/ /səbˈsərviənt/


Early 17th century from Latin subservient- ‘subjecting to, complying with’, from the verb subservire (see subserve).