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

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

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What does the word deference mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language as well as sources like Collins English Dictionary and American heritage, the word deference is a noun that refers to respect and esteem paid toward someone else. Someone who shows deference yields and shows submission, and has a disposition of courteous regard toward the will of others. Deference is a courteous expression paid toward someone else, and shows a deep homage or reference for this person. People might show reference to a kind of authority, or simply because they have a thoughtful consideration for people’s feelings. If someone shows a tendency toward deference, they likely have good judgment but a legitimate influence from authority. Deference shows a politeness, courteous respect, and a willingness to submit to the wishes of others, especially those who are superiors. Deference has three syllables – def-er-ence, and the pronunciation of deference is ˈdɛfərəns.

Numerous different languages also use words that mean deference. You may notice that a number of these translations of deference look similar to the English translation of deference. These are called cognates, which are often formed when two words of different languages share a root or language of origin. This list of translations for the word deference is provided by Word Sense

  •  Swedish: aktning‎ (common), vördnad‎ (common), respekt‎ (common)
  •  German: Ehrerbietung‎ (masc.), Respekt‎ (masc.), Achtung‎ (fem.)
  •  Dutch: eerbied‎ (masc.)
  •  French: respect‎ (masc.), déférence‎ (fem.)
  •  Greek: σεβασμός‎ (masc.)
  •  Maori: kauanuanu‎
  •  Romanian: deferență‎ (fem.)
  •  Russian: уваже́ние‎ (neut.), почте́ние‎ (neut.), респе́кт‎ (masc.), почита́ние‎ (neut.)
  •  Italian: deferenza‎ (fem.)
  •  Portuguese: deferência‎ (fem.)
  •  Polish: szacunek‎ (masc.)
  •  Danish: ærbødighed‎
  •  Finnish: kunnioitus‎, arvonanto‎
  •  Spanish: deferencia‎ (fem.)
  •  Turkish: hürmet‎
  •  Bulgarian: почит‎ (fem.)

How can the word deference be used in a sentence?

The word deference can be used in many different ways in the English language. Using words in sentences is a great way to memorize their definitions. You can also try making flashcards or quizzes to test your knowledge. Below are several examples of deference. Try using this word of the day in a sentence today!

The governor, Dean, shows great deference toward the Supreme Court in the justice department for his own political ends. However, toward the lower court, he shows no such respectful submission nor great respect.

After being apprehended by law enforcement, the bad dudes showed civility and a seeming deference to the officers. However, by the end of the disciplinary process when they learned they were being charged anyway, their recognition of authority went out the window.

The debate moderators showed a respectful deference to the political scientists and journalists who arrived from Princeton University. However, when they began to invade the privacy of the debaters and stopped showing the proper respect, they were kicked out.

The sociologists and psychologists tried to show deference for the head of the hospital, but when they were given penalties and complaints for taking extra time with certain patients like American soldiers who had just returned from war and were getting their military affairs in order, they stood up to him.

To show wide deference for the church, she always made sure to do a good deed but not tell anyone about it.

What are synonyms and antonyms of the word deference?

Many different words in the English language have the same meaning as the word deference. These are called synonyms, which are used in place of the word deference. Synonyms are a great English language tool you can learn to expand your vocabulary and avoid repeating yourself in written and spoken English. This list of synonyms of deference is provided by Thesaurus.

  •  acquiescence
  •  politeness
  •  agreement
  •  compliance
  •  respect
  •  conformability
  •  props
  •  conformity
  •  devotion
  •  civility
  •  quietness
  •  manageability
  •  awe
  •  willingness
  •  attention
  •  docility
  •  obedience
  •  meekness
  •  homage
  •  observance
  •  servility
  •  reverence
  •  obeisance
  •  tractability
  •  dutifulness
  •  orderliness
  •  duteousness
  •  tameness
  •  regard
  •  complaisance
  •  submission
  •  acclaim
  •  esteem
  •  veneration
  •  condescension
  •  capitulation
  •  courtesy
  •  duty
  •  consideration
  •  yielding
  •  accordance
  •  thoughtfulness
  •  subservience
  •  honor
  •  submissiveness
  •  passivity

There are also numerous different words that mean the opposite of the word deference. These opposite words are called antonyms. Antonyms are another great way to expand your English language vocabulary and knowledge of different English words. This list of antonyms of deference is also provided by Thesaurus.

  •  lethargy
  •  inadvertence
  •  disregard
  •  brush-off
  •  omission
  •  the cold shoulder
  •  disesteem
  •  lassitude
  •  unmindfulness
  •  contempt
  •  oblivion
  •  disinterest
  •  neglect
  •  neglecting
  •  listlessness
  •  apathy
  •  insouciance
  •  heedlessness
  •  disrespect
  •  inattention
  •  omitting
  •  oversight
  •  slighting
  •  ignoring
  •  slight
  •  scorn
  •  disfavor
  •  negligence
  •  disdain
  •  forgetting
  •  indifference
  •  unconcern
  •  overlooking

What is the origin of the word deference?

According to Etymonline, the word deference has been used since the 1640s. This comes from the c16 Middle French déférence, from the French déférer, a verb meaning to yield or comply. These come from the Latin differre, meaning to scatter or to differ from, as well as to put off. This is formed from the assimilated form of dis, meaning away from, and the root ferre meaning to carry, from the Proto-Indo-European roots bher. While this is etymologically the same as the word differ, their spelling, pronunciation and meaning were differentiated by c15. One can add the suffixes ed, ing, and ent to form the related words deferred (v.), deferring (v.), and deferent (adj.).

Overall, the word deference means a respect of yielding to another person, esp.a person of authority. If someone shows deference, this means that they are likely to acquiesce to a superior. Deference has its pros and cons, and can be lauded or criticized depending on the circumstance.


  1. deference: meaning, origin, translation | Word Sense 
  2. DEFERENCE Synonyms: 40 Synonyms & Antonyms for DEFERENCE | Thesaurus 
  3. DISREGARD Synonyms: 102 Synonyms & Antonyms for DISREGARD | Thesaurus 
  4. deference | Origin and meaning of deference | Online Etymology Dictionary 
  5. Deference | Definition of Deference | Merriam-Webster