"junior military officer," 1680s, earlier more generally, "person of inferior rank" (c. 1600), noun use of adjective subaltern "having an inferior position, subordinate" (1580s), from French subalterne, from Late Latin subalternus, from Latin sub "under" (see sub-) + alternus "every other (one), one after the other" (from PIE root *al- "beyond").
Entries linking to subaltern
word-forming element meaning "under, beneath; behind; from under; resulting from further division," from Latin preposition sub "under, below, beneath, at the foot of," also "close to, up to, towards;" of time, "within, during;" figuratively "subject to, in the power of;" also "a little, somewhat" (as in sub-horridus "somewhat rough"), from PIE *(s)up- (perhaps representing *ex-upo-), a variant form of the root *upo "under," also "up from under." The Latin word also was used as a prefix and in various combinations.
In Latin assimilated to following -c-, -f-, -g-, -p-, and often -r- and -m-. In Old French the prefix appears in the full Latin form only "in learned adoptions of old Latin compounds" [OED], and in popular use it was represented by sous-, sou-; as in French souvenir from Latin subvenire, souscrire (Old French souzescrire) from subscribere, etc.
The original meaning is now obscured in many words from Latin (suggest, suspect, subject, etc.). The prefix is active in Modern English, sometimes meaning "subordinate" (as in subcontractor); "inferior" (17c., as in subhuman); "smaller" (18c.); "a part or division of" (c. 1800, as in subcontinent).
Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to grow, nourish."
It forms all or part of: abolish; adolescent; adult; alderman; aliment; alimony; Alma; alma mater; alt (2) "high tone;" alti-; altimeter; altitude; alto; alumnus; auld; coalesce; elder (adj., n.1); eldest; Eldred; enhance; exalt; haught; haughty; hautboy; hawser; oboe; old; proletarian; proliferation; prolific; world.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Greek aldaino "make grow, strengthen," althein, althainein "to get well;" Latin alere "to feed, nourish, suckle; bring up, increase," altus "high," literally "grown tall," almus "nurturing, nourishing," alumnus "fosterling, step-child;" Gothic alþeis, Dutch oud, German alt "old;" Gothic alan "to grow up," Old Norse ala "to nourish;" Old Irish alim "I nourish."
Proto-Indo-European root meaning "beyond."
It forms all or part of: adulteration; adultery; alias; alibi; alien; alienate; alienation; allegory; allele; allergy; allo-; allopathy; allotropy; Alsace; alter; altercation; alternate; alternative; altruism; eldritch; else; hidalgo; inter alia; other; outrage; outrageous; outre; parallax; parallel; subaltern; synallagmatic; ulterior; ultimate; ultra-.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit anya "other, different," arana- "foreign;" Avestan anya-, Armenian ail "another;" Greek allos "other, different, strange;" Latin alius "another, other, different," alter "the other (of two)," ultra "beyond, on the other side;" Gothic aljis "other," Old English elles "otherwise, else," German ander "other."
updated on December 07, 2020
Dictionary entries near subaltern