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See also: šupině



US astronaut John Glenn lying supine (sense 1) during a medical examination on 22 July 1962

The adjective is borrowed from Latin supīnus, from *sup- (see sub (under)) + -īnus (of, pertaining to). The word is cognate with Catalan supí, Italian supino, Old French sovin, Middle French souvin, Anglo-Norman supin, Old Occitan sobin, sopin, Portuguese supino, Spanish supino.[1] Partly displaced Old English upweard (upward, supine), whence Modern English upward.

The noun is from Late Middle English supin (supine of a Latin verb) or Middle French supin ((grammar) supine), from Latin supīnum,[2] (ellipsis of supīnum verbum (supine verb)), from supīnus; further etymology above.



supine (comparative more supine, superlative most supine)

  1. Lying on its back.
    Synonym: reclined
    Antonyms: prone, prostrate
    • 1973 January 26, Paul C. Walter, Jon E. Villaume, Thomas J. Taylor, Phosphates: A Monograph (GRAS Monograph Series; nos. 86–88), [Philadelphia, Pa.?]: Franklin Institute Research Laboratories, →OCLC, page 16:
      Data, in part previously reported by this laboratory (2, 9), on the effects of mannitol loads in supine subjects, and of saline infusions in both supine and standing subjects, have also been used in the construction of Table III and Figures 1 and 2.
    • 2009, Robert C. Shamberger, “Chest Wall Deformities”, in Thomas W. Shields, Joseph LoCicero III, Carolyn E. Reed, Richard H. Feins, editors, General Thoracic Surgery, 7th edition, volume I, Philadelphia, Pa.: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Wolters Kluwer, →ISBN, part A (The Lung, Pleura, Diaphragm, and Chest Wall), section IX (The Chest Wall), page 603, column 1:
      Posterior displacement of the sternum can produce a deformity of the heart, particularly anterior indentation of the right ventricle. [...] The physical work capacity in pectus excavatum at a given heart rate was significantly lower in the sitting than the supine position.
  2. (of the hand, forearm or foot) Turned facing toward the body or upward: with the thumb outward (palm up), or with the big toe raised relative to the little toe.
    A foot in the prone, normal, and supine positions.
    when one is washing one’s face, the hand is in the supine position; and then the forearm is also in the supine position; when the foot is resting on the outer side of the sole, it is in the supine position
  3. (figuratively) Reluctant to take action due to indifference or moral weakness; apathetic or passive towards something.
    Synonyms: passive, peaceful, lazy, lethargic, listless
    • 1695, John Woodward, “Part II. Concerning the Universal Deluge. That These Marine Bodies were then Left at Land. The Effects It Had upon the Earth.”, in An Essay toward a Natural History of the Earth: [], London: Printed for Ric[hard] Wilkin [], →OCLC, pages 85–86:
      [W]hen Man was fallen, and had abandoned his primitive Innocence, [...] he became puſillanimous, and was eaſily ruffled with every little Paſſion within: ſupine, and as openly expoſed to any Temptation or Aſſault from without.
    • 1748, [David Hume], “Essay V. Sceptical Solution of These Doubts.”, in Philosophical Essays Concerning Human Understanding, London: [] A[ndrew] Millar, [], →OCLC, part I, page 70:
      The Academics talk always of Doubts and ſuſpense of Judgment, of Danger in haſty Determinations, of confining to the very narrow Bounds the Enquiries of the Understanding, and of renouncing all Speculations that lie not within the Limits of common Life and Practice. Nothing, therefore, can be more contrary than ſuch a Philoſophy to the ſupine Indolence of the Mind, its raſh Arrogance, its lofty Pretenſions, and its ſuperſtitious Credulity.
    • 1788, Publius [pseudonym; Alexander Hamilton], “Number XXIX. Concerning the Militia.”, in The Federalist: A Collection of Essays, Written in Favour of the New Constitution, [] , volume I, New York, N.Y.: [] J. and A. M‘Lean, [], →OCLC, page 184:
      In times of inſurrection or invaſion it would be natural and proper that the militia of a neighbouring ſtate ſhould be marched into another to reſiſt a common enemy or to guard the republic againſt the violences of faction or ſedition. [...] If the power of affording it be placed under the direction of the Union, there will be no danger of a ſupine and liſtleſs inattention to the dangers of a neighbour, till its near approach had ſuperadded the incitements of ſelf preſervation to the too feeble impulſes of duty and ſympathy.
    • 2009 July, Mark Elliott, “Torture, Deportation and Extra-judicial Detention: Instruments of the ‘War on Terror’”, in Cambridge Law Journal, volume 68, number 2, →DOI, pages 245 at 245–246:
      In A v. UK, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights held that Part 4 of the 2001 Act [the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001] was not a strictly necessary response to the acknowledged emergency evidenced by the attacks in the USA and that the detention of the applicants was in breach of Article 5 [of the European Convention on Human Rights]. This conclusion is noteworthy given that the European Court has in the past adopted a deferential if not supine approach when assessing the legality of derogations under Article 15.
    • 2011 December 15, Felicity Cloake, “How to cook the perfect nut roast”, in The Guardian[1], London, archived from the original on 2 January 2018:
      A single slice of this could leave you supine in front of the Queen's speech without even the wherewithal to reach for the remote control.
  4. (rare, now poetic) Inclining or leaning backward; inclined, sloping.
    Synonyms: inclined, sloping
    • 1697, Virgil, “The First Book of the Georgics”, in John Dryden, transl., The Works of Virgil: Containing His Pastorals, Georgics, and Æneis. [], London: [] Jacob Tonson, [], →OCLC, page 82, lines 372–375:
      But if the Vine / On riſing Ground be plac'd, or Hills ſupine, / Extend thy looſe Battalions largely wide, / Opening thy Ranks and Files on either Side: [...]


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supine (plural supines)

  1. (grammar, also attributively) In Latin and other languages: a type of verbal noun used in the ablative and accusative cases, which shares the same stem as the passive participle.
    • 1653, Charles Hoole, “Of the Supines of Simple Verbs”, in The Latine Grammar Fitted for the Use of Schools. [], 2nd corrected edition, London: Printed by William Du-Gard; and are to bee sold by John Saywell [], →OCLC, page 142:
      And here also you may observ, that the syllable which is doubled in the Preterperfect tens is not doubled in the Supines, as totondi to clip, make's tonsum: cecídi to beat, cæsum: []
    • 1718, Richard Johnson, “Of Supines”, in Grammatical Commentaries: Being an Apparatus to a New National Grammar: [], London: Printed for the author, and sold by Thomas Bickerton, [], →OCLC, page 354:
      There be alſo appertaining unto Verbs, two Supines, the one ending in um, which is called the firſt Supine, becauſe it hath the ſignification of the Verb Active: as, Eo amatum, I go to love: and the other in u, becauſe it hath for the moſt part the ſignification of Paſſive, as Difficilis amatu, hard to be loved.
    • 1898, Henry Sweet, “Verbs”, in A New English Grammar: Logical and Historical (Clarendon Press Series), part II (Syntax), Oxford: At the Clarendon Press [by Horace Hart], →OCLC, §§ 2314 and 2315, page 118:
      Of the large number of verbs which take the infinitive in Old-English the greater number are now followed by the supine. [] The substitution of the supine for the infinitive began in Old-English itself. Thus the supine of purpose, as in hīe cōmon þæt land tō sċēawienne 'they came to spy out the land,' gradually supplanted the older infinitive with many verbs of desiring, intending, attempting, etc., so that while such a verb as willan 'will' continued—as it still does in modern English—to take the infinitive only, other verbs of similar meaning, [] began to take the supine as well as the infinitive.
    • 2013, Emma Short, Alex George, “The Verb (Stearn, pp. 130–139)”, in A Primer of Botanical Latin with Vocabulary, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, →ISBN, page 47:
      If you must know, the verb finite (i.e. limited by person and number) has three persons, two numbers, six tenses and three moods, while the verb infinite (not so limited) has infinitives, three participles, the gerund and gerundive and two supines.
    • 2016, Virginia Hill, Gabriela Albiou, “Supine Clauses: On the Road to Balkanization”, in Verb Movement and Clause Structure in Old Romanian (Oxford Studies in Diachronic & Historical Linguistics), Oxford: Oxford University Press, →ISBN, page 267:
      The chapter focuses on the supine clause, which is a language-specific construction. An example is offered in (1): the aspectual verb isprăvi 'finish' selects a clausal complement that contains a supine verb. We know that the supine is a verb because its direct object is in unmarked Case (i.e. Accusative). Supine nouns, like any regular noun, have the direct object marked for Genitive Case. [] The emergence and the spread of the supine clause is very well captured in the Old Romanian texts, a situation that contrasts with the incomplete information we have about other clausal complements.
  2. (grammar, also attributively) In Swedish, Faroese, Icelandic and Old Norse: a verb form that combines with an inflection of ha/hafa/hava to form the present perfect and pluperfect tenses.
    • [1849], A[lfred] May, “Etymology”, in A Practical Grammar of the Swedish Language, with Reading- and Writing-exercises, Stockholm: A. Bonnier, →OCLC, page 42:
      The three conjugations are distinguished principally by the ending of the supine. In the first conjugation the supine ends in at, as: tala speak talat spoken. In the second conjugation the supine ends in t after a consonant, as: köpa buy köpt bought. In the third conjugation the supine ends in it, as: taga take tagit taken.
    • 2005, Ulf Teleman, “The Standard Languages and Their Systems in the 20th Century IV: Swedish”, in Herbert Ernst Wiegand, editor, The Nordic Languages: An International Handbook of the History of the North Germanic Languages (Händbucher zur Sprach- und Kommunikationswissenschaft [Handbooks of Linguistics and Communication Science]; 22.2), volume 2, Berlin, New York, N.Y.: Walter de Gruyter, →ISBN, part XVI (The Nordic Languages in the 20th Century), pages 1613–1614:
      There are two non-finite forms in Swedish, the infinitive and the supine. [] The supine has two basic allomorphs: -t (weak verbs) and -it (strong verbs). [] The supine verb phrase serves as complement of the perfect auxiliary ha 'have' (hon hade bundit honom) which can be deleted, though, in subordinate clauses (eftersom hon [hade] bundit honom 'since she had bound him'). (The supine has existed as a morphologically distinct category in standard Swedish language at least since the 19th c.; cf. art. 155.)
  3. (grammar, also attributively) (obsolete terminology) The 'to'-prefixed infinitive in English or other Germanic languages, so named because the infinitive was regarded as a verbal noun and the 'to'-prefixed form of it was seen as the dative form of the verbal noun; the full infinitive.

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  1. ^ supine, adj. and adv.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, June 2012.
  2. ^ supīn, n.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 17 August 2018.

Further reading[edit]




supine f pl

  1. feminine plural of supino




  1. vocative masculine singular of supīnus


  • supine”, in Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short (1879) A Latin Dictionary, Oxford: Clarendon Press
  • supine in Gaffiot, Félix (1934) Dictionnaire illustré latin-français, Hachette.