Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Low or lower in order, degree, or rank.
  • adjective Low or lower in quality, value, or estimation.
  • adjective Second-rate; poor.
  • adjective Situated under or beneath.
  • adjective Botany Located below the perianth and other floral parts. Used of an ovary.
  • adjective Anatomy Located beneath or directed downward.
  • adjective Printing Set below the normal line of type; subscript.
  • adjective Orbiting between Earth and the sun.
  • adjective Lying below the horizon.
  • noun A person lower in rank, status, or accomplishment than another.
  • noun Printing An inferior character, such as the number 2 in CO2.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • In anatomy, lying on the ventral side of the body; farther from the dorsal line, or back, than some other organ or part of an organ.
  • Lower in space; situated below or in a lower position; subjacent: as, the inferior maxillary bone; the inferior limb of the moon.
  • Lower in grade or in any scale of reckoning; less important or valuable; of smaller consideration; subordinate: as, goods of inferior quality; a man of inferior rank.
  • In botany, growing below some other organ. An inferior calyx is one that is inserted below the ovary, or free; an inferior ovary is one with adnate or superior calyx. Compare superior.
  • In astronomy: Situated or occurring between the earth and the sun: as, the inferior planets; an inferior conjunction of Mercury and Venus.
  • Lying below the horizon: as, the inferior part of a meridian.
  • 5 In music, lower in pitch.
  • In entomology, pertaining to the lower or ventral surface of an insect; below; nearer the ventral surface than other parts.
  • In printing, occupying the lower part of the shank of the type; standing below other type in the same line: as, the inferior figures used in chemical notation.
  • A court the proceedings or determinations of which are subject to the supervision or review of another court, of general jurisdiction, of the same state. Few phrases in law are more indeterminate than this. It is a well-settled maxim that jurisdiction is presumed in favor of the proceedings of superior, but not those of inferior, courts. The rule originated in England, where the courts of Chancery, Queen's (or King's) Bench, Common Pleas, and Exchequer, all having an ancient common-law existence, and general, though not identical, jurisdiction, were known as the superior courts; and the distinction between them and inferior courts of special or limited jurisdiction was clear. In American law the term is variously used, without an exact meaning, except as afforded by the context.
  • noun A person who ranks below another; one who holds a lower place; a subordinate: as, an inferior in qualifications or experience; the inferiors in a great household.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective Lower in place, rank, value, excellence, etc.; less important or valuable; subordinate; underneath; beneath.
  • adjective Poor or mediocre.
  • adjective Nearer the sun than the earth is
  • adjective Below the horizon.
  • adjective Situated below some other organ; -- said of a calyx when free from the ovary, and therefore below it, or of an ovary with an adherent and therefore inferior calyx.
  • adjective On the side of a flower which is next the bract; anterior.
  • adjective (Min.) Junior or subordinate in rank.
  • adjective (Law) a court subject to the jurisdiction of another court known as the superior court, or higher court.
  • adjective (Print.) a small letter or figure standing at the bottom of the line (opposed to superior letter or figure), .
  • adjective the tide corresponding to the moon's transit of the meridian, when below the horizon.
  • noun A person lower in station, rank, intellect, etc., than another.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective of lower quality
  • adjective of lower rank
  • adjective located below
  • adjective In botany, inside the flower stalk below the petals. Said of an ovary.
  • noun a person of lower stature to another

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adjective falling short of some prescribed norm
  • noun a character or symbol set or printed or written beneath or slightly below and to the side of another character
  • adjective of low or inferior quality
  • adjective written or printed below and to one side of another character
  • adjective having an orbit between the sun and the Earth's orbit
  • adjective of or characteristic of low rank or importance
  • adjective lower than a given reference point

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English, from Latin īnferior, comparative of īnferus, low; see n̥dher- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Borrowed from Latin īnferior ("lower, inferior"), the comparative of īnferus ("low, nether, underground").

Examples

  • “I had the honour,” wrote Gulliver solemnly of Lilliput, “to be a Nardac, which the Treasurer himself is not; for, as all the world knows, he is only a Clumglum, a title inferior by one degree….”

    Alexander Hamilton, American

  • “I had the honour,” wrote Gulliver solemnly of Lilliput, “to be a Nardac, which the Treasurer himself is not; for, as all the world knows, he is only a Clumglum, a title inferior by one degree….”

    Alexander Hamilton, American

  • John Bright, a noted English statesman, said: "If children at school can be made to understand how it is just and noble to be humane even to what we term inferior animals, it will do much to give them a higher character and tone through life."

    Friends and Helpers

  • At an industry conference, Rock also lambasted radio types for investing in digital audio broadcasting DAB radio, which he described as "inferior quality" and "more expensive" than an old-fashioned analogue wireless.

    Media Monkey's Diary

  • Are the beings which we call inferior only the cadets of the universe, and are they too in their turn to mount all the steps of the ladder?

    The Heavenly Father Lectures on Modern Atheism

  • ` ` A very great English philosopher hath remarked our policy, in taking care never to address any one with a title inferior to what he really claims.

    The Works of Henry Fielding, Volume Six: Miscellanies

  • What an honest strain of wildness would it indicate! and into what regions of rich mystery would it extend Donatello's sympathies, to be thus linked (and by no monstrous chain) with what we call the inferior trioes of being, whose simplicity, mingled with his human intelligence, might partly restore what man has lost of the divine!

    The Marble Faun - Volume 1 The Romance of Monte Beni

  • His smiling goalkeeping coach, Tancredi, chatted with Italo Galbiati while protecting his goal, speaking quickly in Italian although I did catch the word "inferior" as they surveyed the game.

    Telegraph.co.uk - Telegraph online, Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph

  • His smiling goalkeeping coach, Tancredi, chatted with Italo Galbiati while protecting his goal, speaking quickly in Italian although I did catch the word "inferior" as they surveyed the game.

    Telegraph.co.uk - Telegraph online, Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph

  • I should not have dwelt so long upon this particular, it had not been a point wherein the reputation of a great lady is so nearly concerned, to say nothing of my own; though I then had the honor to be a Nardac, which the Treasurer himself is not; for all the world knows he is only a Glumglum, a title inferior by one degree, as that of a Marquis is to a Duke in England, although I allow he preceded me in right of his post.

    Gulliver's Travels

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