Definition of deferential in English:



  • Showing deference; respectful.

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


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