The Meaning of Ancillary: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of ancillary? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word ancillary, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word ancillary mean?

According to Cambridge English Dictionary and Merriam-Webster Unabridged English Dictionary, the word ancillary (pronounced ænˈsɪl ə ri) is an adjective that refers to people or things that provide support or help to some other primary source. This word can also be used more generally to mean additional. For example, a business might have ancillary costs outside of production, including marketing or other services that they must purchase to succeed. A business might also provide ancillary services outside of their main stream of business – for example, an artist might also provide graphic design services. An artist might also have to purchase ancillary equipment in order to complete their work, such as an easel. A business might have ancillary staff, such as custodial workers, that do not provide the main business function but still provide adjunct services. These supplemental materials are usually of secondary importance. Try using this word of the day or other new words in a sentence today!

Many different languages also use words that mean ancillary. You may notice that some of these words look similar to each other. Cognates – which are words that look, sound, and mean something similar across different languages – are often formed when the two words or languages share a common origin or ancestral language like Latin or Greek. This list of translations is provided by Word Sense.

  • Turkish: yardımcı‎, tali‎
  • Danish: sekundær‎, underordnet‎
  • Catalan: auxiliar‎
  • Spanish: secundario‎, auxiliar‎
  • Finnish: avustava‎, apu‎, oheinen‎; tukeva‎, tuki‎; toissijainen‎
  • German: hilfs-‎, neben-‎, zusatz-‎
  • Russian: вспомога́тельный‎, подсо́бный‎, дополни́тельный‎, подчинённый‎
  • Italian: subordinato‎ (masc.), secondario‎ (masc.), ausiliare‎
  • Polish: podrzędny‎, podporządkowany‎, pomocniczy‎
  • Bulgarian: помощен‎, спомагателен‎
  • Dutch: ondergschikt‎, ondersteunend‎, ondersteunend‎
  • Swedish: underordnad‎, sekundär‎
  • Portuguese: subordinado‎ (masc.), secundário‎ (masc.), auxiliar‎, ancilário‎ (masc.), ancilar‎, auxiliário‎ (masc.)
  • French: subordonné‎ (masc.), secondaire‎ (masc.) (f), auxiliaire‎ (masc.) (f), ancillaire‎
  • Urdu: مُعاوِن‎ (muawan)

What are synonyms and antonyms for the word ancillary?

There are many different words that mean the same thing as the word ancillary. These are called synonyms, which are words and phrases that have the same definition as another word or phrase. Synonyms are a useful tool to know if you are trying to expand your vocabulary or avoid repeating yourself. This list of synonyms for the word ancillary is provided by Thesaurus.

  • accompanying
  • supplementary
  • affixed
  • appurtenant
  • spare
  • added
  • appended
  • attendant
  • increased
  • additional
  • subordinate
  • concomitant
  • subsidary
  • attending
  • collateral
  • option
  • new
  • further
  • contributory
  • satellite
  • padding
  • coincident
  • more
  • on the side
  • incident
  • accessory
  • over-and-above
  • extra
  • secondary
  • other
  • perk
  • adjuvant
  • subservient

There are also many different words that serve as antonyms for the word ancillary. Antonyms are words that have the opposite meaning as another word or phrase – the opposite of a synonym. Antonyms are also a vital English language concept to know if you are trying to expand your vocabulary. This list of antonyms for the word ancillary is also provided by Thesaurus

  • primary
  • prevailing
  • bottom-line
  • direct
  • obligatory
  • decisive
  • capital
  • primal
  • unavoidable
  • indispensable
  • premier
  • fundamental
  • constitutional
  • star
  • necessary
  • crucial
  • primitive
  • controlling
  • exigent
  • foremost
  • requisite
  • essential
  • expedient
  • pressing
  • vital
  • central
  • basic
  • earliest
  • outstanding
  • simple
  • leading
  • immediate
  • significant
  • special
  • needed
  • preeminent
  • paramount
  • principal
  • main
  • momentous
  • major
  • wanted
  • compulsory
  • prime
  • quintessential
  • supreme
  • head
  • all-important
  • elementary
  • stellar
  • idiopathic
  • required
  • mandatory
  • cardinal
  • incumbent on
  • first
  • chief
  • name of game
  • de rigueur
  • urgent
  • critical
  • prerequisite
  • dominant
  • binding
  • needful
  • imperative
  • underlying
  • specified
  • initial
  • compelling
  • particular

How can the word ancillary be used in a sentence?

The word ancillary is a versatile word that can be used in a variety of contexts. Below are a couple of examples of ancillary used in a sentence. In this first example, Nat and Gina are talking about the guy Gina has been seeing.

Nat: So tell me all about him!

Gina: He has a boat.

Nat: No, I mean like, his personality. 

Gina: Oh, I mean he’s nice and all. But the best thing about him is the boat.

Nat: Gina, the boat should be part of the ancillary benefits of this relationship. The main one should be, I don’t know, actually liking him?

Here, Nat uses the term ancillary to refer to secondary benefits of a relationship. She does not want Gina to get into a relationship just because the potential partner has things that she wants to use. In this next example, Nat is talking about her new job.

Nat: So I’m basically responsible for assisting all of the writers. And I guess the benefit is that I get to listen in while they’re all discussing the story and writing the drafts.

Gina: Do they let you write anything?

Nat: God, no. It’s more of an ancillary role.

What is the origin of the word ancillary?

According to Etymonline, the word ancillary has been used since the 1660s to refer to something that is subordinate or serving as an aid. This comes from the Latin ancillaris which was a word that was used to refer to maidservants, which were female servants. This comes from the Latin ancilla meaning handmaid. This is the feminine diminutive of anculus, a word meaning servant. It literally meant “he who bustles about,” from the root ambi meaning around from the Proto-Indo-European ambhi and the Proto-Indo-European root kwol-o or kwel, meaning to revolve or move around. Related words include ambiguous, ambivalent, and more.

Overall, the word ancillary is an adjective that means secondary or providing support or help. This word can be used in a variety of different contexts to refer to people or things that are in supportive roles to a primary task or business.