Definition of deferential in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /dɛfəˈrɛnʃ(ə)l/


Showing deference; respectful: people were always deferential to him
More example sentences
  • 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 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;
courteous, polite, civil, dutiful, reverent, reverential, awed;
dated mannerly



Pronunciation: /dɛfəˈrɛnʃ(ə)li/
Example sentences
  • But one cannot please all of the people all of the time: occasionally someone would step up onto the stage and ask deferentially, ‘Gentlemen, could you play something less modern?’
  • ‘I won't attempt to sing it to you,’ she says deferentially.
  • A uniformed retainer interrupts us deferentially to say that ‘His Highness’ is ready to receive us.


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

Words that rhyme with deferential

cadential, confidential, consequential, credential, differential, essential, evidential, existential, experiential, exponential, influential, intelligential, irreverential, jurisprudential, penitential, pestilential, potential, preferential, presidential, providential, prudential, quintessential, referential, residential, reverential, sapiential, sciential, sentential, sequential, tangential, torrential

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: def|er¦en|tial

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.