Docile vs. Submissive: What's the Difference?
“Docile” means easily taught, led, or managed, while “Submissive” implies yielding or surrendering oneself to the will of another.
“Docile” and “Submissive” both describe a willingness to follow orders or instructions, but they have nuanced differences. A docile person or animal is easily taught and is willing to learn or follow instructions, highlighting receptivity to guidance or control, usually because of a lack of resistance. “Submissive,” on the other hand, refers more to a yielding or surrendering of one’s will, often without regard to one’s own desires or comfort, usually implying a lower status or a relinquishing of control to another entity.
The concept of being “Docile” often carries a positive connotation, especially in educational contexts. It signifies a willingness to learn and an absence of obstinacy, facilitating smooth interaction and effective learning. In contrast, “Submissive” can have a negative connotation, implying a lack of agency or autonomy, often associated with subservience or even a sense of inferiority, where one’s own preferences and needs are secondary to those of another person or entity.
In the context of behavior and disposition, a “Docile” individual is generally compliant and manageable without necessarily being subservient, portraying a harmonious balance between willingness and autonomy. “Submissive” individuals, conversely, are often perceived as being overly compliant or acquiescent, possibly due to fear, coercion, or a desire to please, typically lacking assertiveness and often seeming to be in a state of dependency or inferiority.
While “Docile” usually implies a temperament that is naturally non-aggressive and is inclined to be cooperative, “Submissive” tends to imply a relationship dynamic where one is subjected to the authority, control, or preferences of another. A docile demeanor is often valued for its amenability and tractability, making interactions pleasant and constructive. A submissive demeanor, however, can be perceived as a reflection of power imbalance and might be seen as problematic, especially if it stems from oppression or intimidation.
Generally positive, implies willingness to learn.
Often negative, implies lack of agency or autonomy.
Compliant and manageable without being subservient.
Overly compliant or acquiescent, often seems to be in a state of dependency.
Does not necessarily imply a power imbalance.
Often reflects a power imbalance.
Non-aggressive, cooperative temperament.
Lacking in assertiveness, subjected to the will of another.
Valued in educational contexts.
Can be problematic if stemming from oppression or intimidation.
Docile and Submissive Definitions
Easily taught or managed.
The docile dog quickly learned several new commands.
Lacking in assertiveness; overly compliant.
She was submissive to her partner’s demands, never asserting her own needs.
Displaying a lack of resistance.
The docile horse allowed the child to pet him without fuss.
Relinquishing control to another entity.
The submissive state surrendered its autonomy to the invading power.
Willing to learn or follow instructions.
The docile student absorbed every word of the lecture.
Reflecting a power imbalance, often with a sense of inferiority.
The submissive posture of the defeated boxer spoke volumes.
Non-aggressive and cooperative by nature.
Her docile demeanor makes her a favorite among her colleagues.
Inclined or willing to submit.
Ready and willing to be taught; teachable.
Obedient or passive.
Yielding to supervision, direction, or management; tractable.
(BDSM) One who submits to a dominant partner in BDSM practices.
Ready to accept instruction or direction; obedient; subservient.
(rare) One who submits.
Yielding to control or supervision, direction, or management.
Such literature may well be anathema to those, who are too docile and petty for their own good.
Inclined or ready to submit; acknowledging one's inferiority; yielding; obedient; humble.
Not at his feet submissive in distress,Creature so fair his reconcilement seeking.
Teachable; easy to teach; docible.
Showing a readiness to submit; expressing submission; as, a submissive demeanor.
With a submissive step I hasted down.
Disposed to be taught; tractable; easily managed; as, a docile child.
The elephant is at once docible and docile.
Inclined or willing to submit to orders or wishes of others or showing such inclination;
A submissive reply
Replacing troublemakers with more submissive people
Willing to be taught or led or supervised or directed;
The docile masses of an enslaved nation
Willing to submit without resistance to authority; deferent
Ready and willing to be taught;
Docile pupils eager for instruction
Abjectly submissive; characteristic of a slave or servant;
Slavish devotion to her job ruled her life
A slavish yes-man to the party bosses
She has become submissive and subservient
Easily handled or managed;
A gentle old horse, docile and obedient
Yielding or surrendering oneself to the will of another.
The submissive employee never voiced his own opinions in meetings.
Compliant and manageable.
The docile crowd followed the security officer’s instructions.
Acquiescent due to fear or a desire to please.
He was submissive in the face of threats, hoping to avoid confrontation.
Can “Submissive” have a negative connotation?
Yes, “Submissive” can have a negative connotation, implying a lack of agency or autonomy.
Does “Submissive” mean yielding to the will of another?
Yes, “Submissive” implies yielding or surrendering oneself to the will of another.
Can a submissive person seem to be in a state of dependency?
Yes, a submissive person often seems to be in a state of dependency or inferiority.
Is a docile person necessarily subservient?
No, a docile person is compliant and manageable but not necessarily subservient.
Does “Submissive” imply acquiescence due to fear or desire to please?
Yes, “Submissive” implies acquiescence often due to fear or a desire to please.
Is “Submissive” indicative of a lack of assertiveness?
Yes, “Submissive” is indicative of a lack of assertiveness and is often subjected to the will of another.
Does “Docile” mean easily taught or managed?
Yes, “Docile” means easily taught, led, or managed.
Is “Submissive” reflective of a power imbalance?
Yes, “Submissive” often reflects a power imbalance in relationships.
Is “Docile” valued in educational contexts?
Yes, “Docile” is valued in educational contexts for its implication of willingness to learn.
Is “Docile” generally a positive term?
Yes, “Docile” generally carries a positive connotation, especially in educational contexts.
Is a docile individual usually open to learning?
Yes, a docile individual is usually willing and open to learning or following instructions.
Does “Docile” imply a power imbalance?
No, “Docile” does not necessarily imply a power imbalance.
Can “Docile” refer to a non-aggressive temperament?
Yes, “Docile” usually refers to a non-aggressive and cooperative temperament.
Are “Docile” and “Submissive” synonyms?
While similar, they are not exact synonyms; “Docile” implies willingness to learn, while “Submissive” emphasizes yielding one’s will to another.
Can “Submissive” be problematic in relationships?
Yes, “Submissive” can be problematic, especially if it stems from oppression or intimidation.
Written bySawaira Riaz
Sawaira is a dedicated content editor at difference.wiki, where she meticulously refines articles to ensure clarity and accuracy. With a keen eye for detail, she upholds the site's commitment to delivering insightful and precise content.
Edited bySumera Saeed
Sumera is an experienced content writer and editor with a niche in comparative analysis. At Diffeence Wiki, she crafts clear and unbiased comparisons to guide readers in making informed decisions. With a dedication to thorough research and quality, Sumera's work stands out in the digital realm. Off the clock, she enjoys reading and exploring diverse cultures.