Definition of subdue in English:



  • 1 Overcome, quieten, or bring under control (a feeling or person)

    ‘she managed to subdue an instinct to applaud’
    • ‘Blair passed over his best chance to subdue his friend and rival by moving him to the Foreign Office in the wake of the last election landslide.’
    • ‘It subdues their emotional force by assigning rational meaning to them, however irrational or incomprehensible the impressions might originally have been.’
    • ‘Jag Johal and police service dog Stryker helped subdue the suspects and both were arrested.’
    • ‘Roles include trying to subdue psychotic children, breaking up fights in the school yard and general administrative duties.’
    • ‘This explains why the pro-hunt protesters were subdued not by policemen, but by a group of men in frock coats who looked like they belonged to John Cleese's Ministry of Silly Walks.’
    • ‘The pair managed to subdue a man who was holding his ex-partner at knifepoint in front of their seven-year-old son.’
    • ‘That they did, but with such a heavy hand that the narcotic gas used to subdue the terrorists also accounted for over 100 hostages.’
    • ‘The Secret Service responded, dousing the fire and subduing the man.’
    • ‘You can hear him subdue an audience that he himself has aroused.’
    • ‘Some of them want to flaunt affluence in all sorts of ways while others subdue their inclination to spend or buy property.’
    • ‘Breathing deeply, I tried to subdue the gnawing feeling deep in my stomach.’
    • ‘Inherent in these excerpts are not only the self-exculpatory motives but also the persuasive elements of domination deliberately subduing the coercive aspects of an unequal relationship.’
    • ‘In Germany, two robbers chose an unique method of subduing their victim when they left a taxi driver glued to his steering wheel and escaped with 300 euros.’
    • ‘We cannot let them succeed, for, as Benjamin Franklin put it, ‘Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.’’
    • ‘So, they throw like girls, which implies weakness, yet they were vicious attackers who needed to be subdued with significant force?’
    • ‘During the training, she learnt to deliver several punches and elbow blows so quickly they would subdue an aggressor before he knew what hit him.’
    • ‘That defeat, time and again, cannot subdue some men is not merely amazing, it is moving.’
    • ‘According to sacred lore, most of Bhutan's gods were subdued by early Buddhist saints.’
    • ‘Underdevelopment is the process by which capitalist forces expand to subdue and impoverish the Third World.’
    • ‘West Midlands police used a non-lethal Taser stun gun to subdue one of the bombing suspects captured last week.’
    curb, restrain, hold back, constrain, contain, inhibit, repress, suppress, stifle, smother, check, keep in check, arrest, bridle, rein in
    conquer, defeat, vanquish, get the better of, overpower, overcome, overwhelm, crush, quash, quell, beat, trounce, subjugate, master, suppress, gain the upper hand over, triumph over, tame, bring someone to their knees, hold in check, humble, chasten, cow
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    1. 1.1Bring (a country or people) under control by force.
      ‘Charles went on a campaign to subdue the Saxons’
      • ‘But the legions were forced to return several times to subdue them and Caesar finally lost patience, so he cut off one hand of every soldier.’
      • ‘They were a thorn in the side of the occupying Roman forces, who had to subdue these hostile natives if they were to establish, safely, the new capital of Londinium.’
      • ‘They forced their way in from all directions and surrounded the blacks in a way that subdued them without firing a shot.’
      • ‘He subdues the nations through bearing witness to the truth, suffering and offering his own life.’
      • ‘How can we possibly afford to subdue country after country in war?’
      • ‘His desire to realize Henry VIII's plan to subdue French influence in Scotland and achieve the union of the Crowns became an obsession.’
      • ‘He began to assert his authority from about 1045, calling upon his feudal lord King Henri I of France to assist him in subduing rebellious barons, finally defeating their assembled forces near Caen in 1047.’
      • ‘North Ossetia lies to the west of the seething Chechnya region where Russian forces have been trying to subdue separatists for a decade.’
      • ‘But the failure to subdue the insurgencies in both countries has produced differences over how to proceed.’
      • ‘The main aim of the wars of new generation is to subdue other countries.’
      • ‘Once England is subdued, French forces need to turn on Germany / Scandinavia, with an excursion into the Med. if resources permit.’
      • ‘His forces killed thousands of Bengalis in a systematic attempt to subdue their struggle for liberation and independence.’
      • ‘Through force of arms it had subdued the surrounding lands, though they had treated the inhabitants fairly.’
      • ‘The settler population and government forces used extreme levels of violence to subdue the native Mexicans.’
      • ‘During the war itself, a larger invading force might have subdued his areas of support before they had time to organize.’
      • ‘These, when provided with permanent garrisons, would become the centres from which the countryside could be subdued and governed.’
      • ‘Government forces sent to subdue the rebellion actually drove more Karens into joining the rebels.’
      • ‘In some cases, security meant subduing forces inimical to that government.’
      • ‘Under this pressure, the last shogun resigned, and imperial troops easily subdued such Tokugawa forces as resisted.’
      • ‘The British air force went in and subdued his own tribal allies.’


Late Middle English: from Anglo-Norman French suduire, from Latin subducere, literally draw from below.