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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English subget, from Old French suget, from Latin subiectus (lying under or near, adjacent, also subject, exposed), as a noun, subiectus (a subject, an inferior), subiectum (the subject of a proposition), past participle of subiciō (throw, lay, place), from sub (under, at the foot of) + iaciō (throw, hurl), as a calque of Ancient Greek ὑποκείμενον (hupokeímenon).


  • enPR: sŭbʹjĕkt, IPA(key): /ˈsʌb.d͡ʒɛkt/
  • (also) (Received Pronunciation) IPA(key): /ˈsʌb.d͡ʒɪkt/
  • (file)
  • Hyphenation: sub‧ject


subject (comparative more subject, superlative most subject)

  1. Likely to be affected by or to experience something.
    a country subject to extreme heat
    Menu listings and prices are subject to change.
    He's subject to sneezing fits.
    • 1709, J[ohn] Dryden, J[ohn] Oldham, “(please specify the page)”, in Mac Flecknoe: A Poem. [] With Spencer’s Ghost: Being a Satyr Concerning Poetry. [], London: [] H[enry] Hills, [], →OCLC:
      All human things are subject to decay.
    • 2013 June 22, “T time”, in The Economist, volume 407, number 8841, page 68:
      The ability to shift profits to low-tax countries by locating intellectual property in them [] is often assumed to be the preserve of high-tech companies. [] current tax rules make it easy for all sorts of firms to generate [] “stateless income”: profit subject to tax in a jurisdiction that is neither the location of the factors of production that generate the income nor where the parent firm is domiciled.
  2. Conditional upon something; used with to.
    The local board sets local policy, subject to approval from the State Board.
  3. Placed or situated under; lying below, or in a lower situation.
  4. Placed under the power of another; owing allegiance to a particular sovereign or state.
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

From Latin subiectus (a subject, an inferior), subiectum (the subject of a proposition), past participle of subiciō (throw, lay, place), from sub (under, at the foot of) + iaciō (throw, hurl).



subject (plural subjects)

  1. (grammar) The noun, pronoun or noun phrase about whom the statement is made. In active clauses with verbs denoting an action, the subject is the actor. In clauses in the passive voice the subject is the target of the action.
    In the sentence ‘The cat ate the mouse’, ‘the cat’ is the subject, ‘the mouse’ being the object.
    In this passive sentence, the subject (‘the early worm’) is the target of an action: ‘The early worm is caught by the early bird.’
  2. By faulty generalisation of a clauses subject being one: an actor or agent; one who takes action. The following example would mean that the subject subjects its subjects to its rule:
    The subjects and objects of power.
  3. The main topic of a paper, work of art, discussion, field of study, etc.
  4. A particular area of study.
    Her favorite subject is physics.
    • 2014 June 14, “It's a gas”, in The Economist, volume 411, number 8891:
      One of the hidden glories of Victorian engineering is proper drains. [] But out of sight is out of mind. And that, together with the inherent yuckiness of the subject, means that many old sewers have been neglected and are in dire need of repair.
  5. A citizen in a monarchy.
    I am a British subject.
    • 1996, S. C. M. Paine, Imperial Rivals: China, Russia, and Their Disputed Frontier[1], M. E. Sharpe, →ISBN, →LCCN, →OCLC, page 89:
      Ignat'ev refused to concede these points, but offered other concessions instead: Russia would not demand a consulate in Ch'i-ch'i-ha-erh or Chang-chia-k'ou (Kalgan); it would permit Chinese subjects to continue living along the Ussuri river as Chinese subjects; and it would limit to 200 the number of Russian traders in Peking.
  6. A person ruled over by another, especially a monarch or state authority.
    • 2020, Alan Mikhail, God's Shadow, →ISBN, page 93:
      [] the Grand Khan seemed to grasp the "truth" of the religion and might become a convert, thereby gaining for Christianity the souls of all his subjects.
  7. (music) The main theme or melody, especially in a fugue.
    • 1878, William Smith Rockstro, “Subject”, in A Dictionary of Music and Musicians:
      The earliest known form of subject is the ecclesiastical cantus firmus, or plain song.
  8. A human, animal or an inanimate object that is being examined, treated, analysed, etc.
    • 1748, Conyers Middleton, Life of Cicero:
      Writers of particular lives [] are apt to be prejudiced in favour of their subject.
    • 2010, Ursula James, Clinical Hypnosis Textbook: A Guide for Practical Intervention, page 73:
      It is also essential for those who come to the subject 'fresh' to gain the insight that will bridge their knowledge from being a subject of hypnosis to a potential practitioner.
    • 2013 July-August, Catherine Clabby, “Focus on Everything”, in American Scientist:
      Not long ago, it was difficult to produce photographs of tiny creatures with every part in focus. That’s because the lenses that are excellent at magnifying tiny subjects produce a narrow depth of field.
  9. (philosophy) A being that has subjective experiences, subjective consciousness, or a relationship with another entity.
  10. (logic) That of which something is stated.
  11. (mathematics) The variable in terms of which an expression is defined.
    Making x the subject of x2 − 6x + 3y = 0, we have x = 3 ± √(9 − 3y).
Derived terms[edit]
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.
See also[edit]

Etymology 3[edit]

From Medieval Latin subiectō, iterative of subiciō (throw, lay, place), from sub (under, at the foot of) + iaciō (throw, hurl).


  • enPR: səb-jĕktʹ, IPA(key): /səbˈd͡ʒɛkt/, /sʌbˈd͡ʒɛkt/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɛkt


subject (third-person singular simple present subjects, present participle subjecting, simple past and past participle subjected)

  1. (transitive, construed with to) To cause (someone or something) to undergo a particular experience, especially one that is unpleasant or unwanted.
    I came here to buy souvenirs, not to be subjected to a tirade of abuse!
  2. (transitive) To make subordinate or subservient; to subdue or enslave.

Further reading[edit]



Chiefly a borrowing from Latin subiectum. Earlier Middle Dutch subject was masculine.


  • IPA(key): /sʏpˈjɛkt/, /sʏˈbjɛkt/
  • (file)
  • Hyphenation: sub‧ject
  • Rhymes: -ɛkt


subject n (plural subjecten, diminutive subjectje n)

  1. subject (theme or topic)
    Synonym: onderwerp
  2. (grammar) subject
    Synonym: onderwerp
  3. (philosophy) subject, ego
  4. someone or something that is the topic of a treatment or analysis

Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]