AskDefine | Define subaltern

Dictionary Definition

subaltern adj : inferior in rank or status; "the junior faculty"; "a lowly corporal"; "petty officialdom"; "a subordinate functionary" [syn: junior-grade, inferior, lower, lower-ranking, lowly, petty(a), secondary, subordinate] n : a British commissioned army officer below the rank of captain

User Contributed Dictionary



From subalternus, from sub- + alternus, from alter.




  1. Of a lower rank or position; inferior or secondary.


  1. a subordinate
  2. a commissioned officer having a rank just below that of Captain
  3. A subaltern proposition; a proposition implied by a universal proposition. For example, some crows are black is a subaltern of all crows are black.


See also

Extensive Definition

For the use of the term in philosophy, see Subaltern (postcolonialism)
A subaltern is a military term for a junior officer. Literally meaning "subordinate", subaltern is used to describe commissioned officers below the rank of captain and generally comprises the various grades of lieutenant. In the British Army the senior subaltern rank was captain-lieutenant, obsolete since the 18th century.
Prior to the Cardwell reforms of the British Army in 1871, the ranks of cornet and ensign were the junior subaltern ranks in the cavalry and infantry respectively.
A subaltern takes temporary command of proceedings during Trooping the Colour.
subaltern in Swedish: Subalternofficer

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

ADC, CO, OD, aide, aide-de-camp, brigadier, brigadier general, captain, chicken colonel, chief of staff, cog, colonel, commandant, commander, commander in chief, commanding officer, commissioned officer, common, commonality, commonalty, company officer, creature, demeaning, disadvantaged, exec, executive officer, field marshal, field officer, first lieutenant, five-star general, flunky, follower, four-star general, general, general officer, generalissimo, hoi polloi, humble, in the shade, inferior, infra dig, jemadar, junior, junior officer, less, lesser, lieutenant, lieutenant colonel, lieutenant general, lightweight, low, lower, lower class, lower orders, lowly, major, major general, marechal, marshal, masses, minor, modest, officer, one-star general, orderly officer, ordinary, pawn, poor relation, risaldar, scrub, second fiddle, second rank, second string, secondary, senior officer, servile, shavetail, sirdar, staff officer, sub, subahdar, subject, sublieutenant, subordinate, subservient, the Old Man, the brass, third rank, third string, third stringer, three-star general, top brass, two-star general, underling, underprivileged, understrapper, vulgar, yes-man
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