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

The adjective is from Latin supīnus (lying down with the face upwards, supine; careless, heedless, thoughtless, negligent, indolent; (grammar) supine), from *sup- (from Proto-Italic *supo (under), ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *h₁eǵʰs (out; out of) + *upo (below, under); see sub) + -īnus (of, pertaining to). The word is cognate with Catalan supí, Italian supino (on one's back, supine), Old French sovin, Middle French souvin, supin, supin, Anglo-Norman supin (modern French supin ((grammar) supine)), Old Occitan sobin, sopin, Portuguese supino (on one's back, supine), Spanish supino (on one's back, supine).[1]

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



supine (comparative more supine, superlative most supine)

  1. Lying on its back; reclined.
  2. (figuratively) Reluctant to take action due to indifference or moral weakness; apathetic or passive towards something; 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 7390908352, 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: Printed for A[ndrew] Millar, [], OCLC 642589706, 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, [] In Two Volumes, volume I, New York, N.Y.: Printed and sold by J. and A. M'Lean, [], OCLC 642792893, 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:10.1017/S000819730900049X, 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.
  3. (rare, now poetic) Inclining or leaning backward; inclined, sloping.
    • 1697, Virgil; John Dryden, transl., “The First Book of the Georgics”, in The Works of Virgil: [], London: Printed for Jacob Tonson, [], OCLC 403869432, lines 372–375, page 82:
      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: []



Derived terms[edit]



supine (plural supines)

  1. (grammar) In Latin: a type of verbal noun used in the ablative and accusative cases, which shares the same stem as the passive participle.
  2. (grammar) In Swedish: a verbform that combines with an inflection of ha to form the present perfect and pluperfect tenses.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ supine, adj. and adv.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford: 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 adjective supino.




  1. vocative masculine singular of supinus