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Submissive vs. Subservient: What's the Difference?

Edited by Sawaira Riaz || By Sumera Saeed || Updated on November 7, 2023
Submissive means yielding to authority, while subservient suggests a lower status, serving others often in an obsequious way.

Key Differences

Submissive refers to a willingness to yield to the authority or will of others. It implies a voluntary act of deferring to others, often out of respect or a desire to maintain harmony. Subservient, however, goes beyond this, implying an excessive willingness to act in accordance with someone else's orders or wishes, often to the point of being obsequious or excessively compliant.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 07, 2023
The submissive nature of an individual might be a personal trait, where one shows a preference for a passive role within a relationship or social structure. Subservient behavior, though, suggests a forced or expected compliance within a hierarchy, where individuals lower in status are expected to serve or obey those above them without question.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 07, 2023
In submissive relationships, the control is often handed over by the submissive party as part of trust or agreement, like in certain consensual hierarchies or power dynamics. Subservient behavior can often be found in situations where one person has to follow orders or serve others due to their position, job, or societal expectations, sometimes unwillingly.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 07, 2023
Being submissive doesn’t necessarily mean one holds a lower status; it could simply indicate a personality type that avoids confrontation. Conversely, being subservient can denote a lower rank or standing, often with the connotation of inferiority or underestimation in capabilities or importance.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 07, 2023
In essence, while both terms deal with deference to authority or another person, submissive often has a psychological or emotional aspect, often within a chosen dynamic. Subservient, in contrast, has a social or structural aspect, relating to one’s lower status or role as a server or attendant, often associated with power imbalances.
Harlon Moss
Nov 07, 2023
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Comparison Chart

Implication

Voluntary yielding
Lower status, obliged service
Sumera Saeed
Nov 07, 2023

Connotation

Passive, cooperative
Inferior, often obsequious
Sumera Saeed
Nov 07, 2023

Social Dynamics

May choose to submit
Often expected to serve
Sumera Saeed
Nov 07, 2023

Relationship to Power

Personal power dynamic
Structural hierarchy
Sara Rehman
Nov 07, 2023

Emotional Component

Can be consensual
Often linked to necessity
Sumera Saeed
Nov 07, 2023
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Submissive and Subservient Definitions

Submissive

Ready to conform to the authority or will of others.
She was submissive to her mentor's guidance.
Sara Rehman
Nov 07, 2023

Subservient

Expected to serve the needs or purposes of others.
As an intern, she felt subservient to the rest of the staff.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 07, 2023

Submissive

Showing a willingness to submit without resistance.
The submissive dog rolled over to show its belly.
Sara Rehman
Nov 07, 2023

Subservient

Excessively willing to serve or please others.
His subservient manner was apparent as he bowed his head whenever addressed.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 07, 2023

Submissive

Compliant with the commands or guidance of others.
The employees were submissive to the new policies.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 07, 2023

Subservient

Less important; subordinate.
The committee's interests were subservient to those of the board.
Sara Rehman
Nov 07, 2023

Submissive

Not resisting control or opposition.
He was submissive during the negotiation, not offering any objections.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 07, 2023

Subservient

Prepared to obey others unquestioningly.
The subservient staff catered to every whim of the celebrity.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 07, 2023

Submissive

Ready to adapt oneself to the convenience of others.
In the debate, she was submissive and avoided conflict.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 07, 2023

Subservient

Under the authority or control of another.
The assistant played a subservient role in the office hierarchy.
Janet White
Nov 07, 2023

Submissive

Inclined or willing to submit.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 18, 2022

Subservient

Subordinate in capacity or function.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 18, 2022

Submissive

Obedient or passive.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 18, 2022

Submissive

(BDSM) One who submits to a dominant partner in BDSM practices.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 18, 2022

FAQs

What does it mean to be subservient?

It means showing a willingness to serve or please others, often implying lower status.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 07, 2023

Are submissive individuals always weak?

No, submission can be a chosen dynamic that doesn't necessarily denote weakness.
Janet White
Nov 07, 2023

What is the role of consent in submission?

Consent is crucial; submission should be a voluntary and respected choice.
Harlon Moss
Nov 07, 2023

Is subservient behavior always negative?

Not always, but it often has negative connotations of excessive obedience.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 07, 2023

What defines a submissive person?

Someone who willingly yields to others' authority or wishes.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 07, 2023

Can someone be submissive by nature?

Yes, it can be an inherent personality trait.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 07, 2023

Is subservience always linked to employment or service roles?

Often, but it can apply to any situation where one is expected to serve.
Sara Rehman
Nov 07, 2023

How does one stop being subservient?

Through self-assertion, setting boundaries, and possibly changing social dynamics.
Sara Rehman
Nov 07, 2023

Can one be submissive without being subservient?

Yes, one can voluntarily submit without being in a lower status.
Harlon Moss
Nov 07, 2023

Is being subservient a personality flaw?

Not inherently, though it can be problematic if it leads to exploitation.
Harlon Moss
Nov 07, 2023

Does being subservient require a context of servitude?

Typically, it implies serving others due to a position or role.
Harlon Moss
Nov 07, 2023

Can subservient actions be voluntary?

They can be, but often suggest obligations due to a role or hierarchy.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 07, 2023

Are there healthy forms of being submissive?

Yes, when it's part of consensual and respectful relationships.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 07, 2023

Can a dominant person also be submissive?

Yes, someone can exhibit both traits in different contexts or relationships.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 07, 2023

Are subservient individuals always content with their role?

Not always; contentment can depend on personal values and the nature of the subservience.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 07, 2023

Can submissive tendencies change?

Yes, people may become more or less submissive due to experiences or personal growth.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 07, 2023

Are subservient people always aware of their status?

Not necessarily; awareness can vary depending on individual perception.
Harlon Moss
Nov 07, 2023

Does society value submissive or subservient behaviors?

It varies by culture and context, with some valuing it and others discouraging it.
Sara Rehman
Nov 07, 2023

Does subservience affect self-esteem?

It can, especially if it is unwanted or forced.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 07, 2023

Can submissive people hold positions of authority?

Yes, they can separate their personal dynamics from professional roles.
Harlon Moss
Nov 07, 2023
About Author
Written by
Sumera 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.
Edited by
Sawaira 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.

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