Definition of deferential in US English:



  • Showing deference; respectful.

    ‘people were always deferential to him’
    • ‘Some bosses like their employees to be blunt and assertive; others like them respectful and deferential.’
    • ‘They are amazingly deferential to men and try to placate them.’
    • ‘He felt that he was always deferential and respectful.’
    • ‘The social changes of the last 50 years have created an electorate less loyal to individual parties and no longer deferential towards politicians.’
    • ‘He asked me where my Pass was, and I turned very polite, deferential and apologetic, saying that I had left it at home.’
    • ‘She is combative, not deferential, but not as effective as I'd like to see.’
    • ‘It's particularly difficult if you're doing those role-changes with people you have been used to being highly deferential towards.’
    • ‘Why doesn't a polite and deferential invitation to talk do the trick any more?’
    • ‘Though Trench was deferential to authority he was also a man of valour.’
    • ‘By contrast, those in favour of reform were accorded a respect that bordered on the deferential.’
    • ‘He thoroughly deserved his long obituary, the tone of which is almost adulatory in parts, even allowing for the deferential standards of the time.’
    • ‘Everything else is carried out with pomp and ceremony by the deferential, impeccably mannered, staff.’
    • ‘Are the courts excessively deferential to the medical profession?’
    • ‘In sharp contrast to many of his rivals, he had a modest and deferential manner which put those in authority at their ease.’
    • ‘There are also slavishly deferential entries on various historians and political scientists.’
    • ‘But now the courts seem inclined to be more deferential to the prosecution's side of this problem.’
    • ‘Instead, he underplays and it's a joy to watch him assume just the right mask of deferential blandness to manage his Colonel.’
    • ‘I asked, my tone polite and deferential - the latter being something which did not come naturally to me.’
    • ‘The growth of social movements has been limited because of deferential attitudes toward the state's role in public affairs.’
    • ‘He was accompanied by a friend, a man of imposing physique, whose deferential manner and constant attention showed that his position was one of dependence.’
    obsequious, humble, respectful, considerate, attentive, thoughtful
    View synonyms


Early 19th century: from deference, on the pattern of pairs such as prudence, prudential.