Word of the Day Archive
Monday January 6, 2003
subaltern \suhb-OL-tuhrn; SUHB-uhl-tuhrn\ , adjective:
1. Ranked or ranged below; subordinate; inferior.
2. (Chiefly British) Ranking as a junior officer; being below the rank of captain.
3. (Logic) Asserting only a part of what is asserted in a related proposition.
1. A person holding a subordinate position.
2. (Chiefly British) A commissioned military officer below the rank of captain.
3. (Logic) A subaltern proposition.
Both the old and new elites, not the subaltern underclass of workers and peasants, superimposed the fever chart of the Russian Revolution on what they assumed to have been the fever chart of the French Revolution with a view to determining the degree to which the temperature curves of the two revolutions diverged from each other.
-- Arno J. Mayer, The Furies
The letters are never those of a groveling subaltern to his superior; they are rather like advisories from one soldier to another.
-- Christina Vella, Intimate Enemies
One of their officers, a subaltern, observed to me that his soldiers were infants that required constant attendance.
-- Paul Leicester Ford, "Dr. Rush and General Washington", The Atlantic, May 1895
Subaltern derives from Late Latin subalternus, "subordinate," from Latin sub-, "under" + Latin alternus, "alternate," from alter, "other."