early 15c., of land, "low, lower down, lower in position," from Latin inferior "lower, farther down" (also used figuratively), comparative of inferus (adj.) "that is below or beneath," from infra "below" (see infra-). Meaning "lower in degree, rank, grade, or importance" is from 1530s; absolutely, "of low quality or rank," also from 1530s.
"person inferior to another in rank, etc.," early 15c., from inferior (adj.).
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