sub·ject (sŭbjĕkt′, -jĭkt)
1. Being in a position or in circumstances that place one under the power or authority of another or others: subject to the law.
2. Prone; disposed: a child who is subject to colds.
3. Likely to incur or receive; exposed: a directive subject to misinterpretation.
4. Contingent or dependent: a vacation subject to changing weather.
1. One who is under the rule of another or others, especially one who owes allegiance to a government or ruler.
a. One concerning which something is said or done; a person or thing being discussed or dealt with: a subject of gossip.
b. Something that is treated or indicated in a work of art.
c. Music A theme of a composition, especially a fugue.
3. A course or area of study: Math is her best subject.
4. A basis for action; a cause.
a. One that experiences or is subjected to something: the subject of ridicule.
b. A person or animal that is the object of medical or scientific study: The experiment involved 12 subjects.
c. A corpse intended for anatomical study and dissection.
d. One who is under surveillance: The subject was observed leaving the scene of the murder.
6. Grammar The noun, noun phrase, or pronoun in a sentence or clause that denotes the doer of the action or what is described by the predicate.
7. Logic The term of a proposition about which something is affirmed or denied.
a. The mind or thinking part as distinguished from the object of thought.
b. A being that undergoes personal conscious or unconscious experience of itself and of the world.
c. The essential nature or substance of something as distinguished from its attributes.
tr.v. (səb-jĕkt) sub·ject·ed, sub·ject·ing, sub·jects
1. To cause to experience, undergo, or be acted upon: suspects subjected to interrogation; rocks subjected to intense pressure.
2. To subjugate; subdue.
3. To submit to the authority of: peoples that subjected themselves to the emperor.
[Middle English, from Old French, from Latin subiectus, from past participle of sūbicere, to subject : sub-, sub- + iacere, to throw; see yē- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
sub·jection (səb-jĕkshən) n.
Synonyms: subject, matter, topic, theme
These nouns denote the principal idea or point of a speech, a piece of writing, or an artistic work. Subject is the most general: “Well, honor is the subject of my story” (Shakespeare).
Matter refers to the material that is the object of thought or discourse: “This distinction seems to me to go to the root of the matter” (William James).
A topic is a subject of discussion, argument, or conversation: “They would talk of ... fashionable topics, such as pictures, taste, Shakespeare” (Oliver Goldsmith).
Theme refers especially to an idea, a point of view, or a perception that is developed and expanded on in a work of art: “To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme” (Herman Melville). See Also Synonyms at dependent.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. 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.