One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1Subordinate, inferior, or subservient (to); = "subaltern". Now chiefly US.
2Philosophy and Theology. In Aristotelian and scholastic philosophy: designating a science which is subordinate to a higher science from which axioms can be drawn.
3Designating both of a pair of propositions consisting of a universal proposition and a particular proposition having the same subject and predicate and being of the same quality (i.e. affirmative or negative); designating the particular proposition of such a pair.
4A genus which is itself a species of a higher genus.
5Chiefly Botany. Alternate, but tending to become opposite; intermediate between alternate and opposite.
Logic. The particular proposition in a pair of subaltern propositions.
with object To subordinate (to), to make subaltern or subalternate; specifically (in Aristotelian and scholastic philosophy) to treat (a science) as subordinate to a higher science.
Late Middle English; earliest use found in Guy de Chauliac's Grande Chirurgie. From post-classical Latin subalternatus (in logic) subordinate, (in medical context) subordinate, use as adjective of past participle of subalternare subaltern<br>late 17th century; earliest use found in John Norris (1657–1712), Church of England clergyman and philosopher. From post-classical Latin subalternat-, past participial stem of subalternare (especially in logic) to subordinate.
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