1. Low or lower in order, degree, or rank: Captain is an inferior rank to major.
a. Low or lower in quality, value, or estimation: inferior craft; felt inferior to his older sibling.
b. Second-rate; poor: an inferior translation.
3. Situated under or beneath.
4. Botany Located below the perianth and other floral parts. Used of an ovary.
5. Anatomy Located beneath or directed downward.
6. Printing Set below the normal line of type; subscript.
a. Orbiting between Earth and the sun: Mercury is an inferior planet.
b. Lying below the horizon.
1. A person lower in rank, status, or accomplishment than another.
2. Printing An inferior character, such as the number 2 in CO2.
[Middle English, from Latin īnferior, comparative of īnferus, low; see dher- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
in·fe′ri·ori·ty (-ôrĭ-tē, -ŏr-) n.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.