MY EFFORT: this a straight-forward question. I was practising for 'SAT' and met a question which required knowledge of difference between the afore-mentioned two words. I have searched the following 2 Web Sources and 1 Father's MacBook In-Built Dictionary:

  1. Google

a) Sorry: I don't have 10 reputation to post the link.E

b) Sorry: I don't have 10 reputation to post the link.

  1. Wikipedia

a) Sorry: I don't have 10 reputation to post the link.

b) This is one is quite intriguing: Wikipedia refers to two contexts in which Reverence is used, first one is 'Emotion' and the second one is 'Attitude'; the second is very important because Deference is mostly used in the context of 'Attitude' (THIS IS THE EXACT REASON BEHIND MY DOUBT). Sorry: I don't have 10 reputation to post the link.

Note: I haven't still (NOR I HAVE THE TIME, MY 'SAT' EXAMS ARE NEAR) researched into the meanings of these two words, therefore, it may be possible that they may have even more complex and differentiated meaning, for i.e., they have either historically or primitively quite distinct meaning.

  1. MacBook Inbuilt Dictionary: These are screen shots

a) Meaning of Deference

b) Meaning of Reverence

  • 1
    Reverence implies admiration of a religious nature. Deference implies respect/submission as to a king.
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 17, 2016 at 14:28

2 Answers 2


Surely your screen shots answer the question for you:

Deference : "polite submission and respect" - also, it can refer to wishes or age.
Reverence : "deep respect" - also would normally refer to a person, or possibly a temple, idol, or the like.

You might need to treat your teacher / boss / superiors with deference (polite respect) - but you are unlikely to treat them with reverence (deep respect). At one extreme, you may hate your teacher or your boss, but still have to treat them with deference; at the opposite extreme, reverence could mean treating someone like a god.

Yet another way of viewing the difference is that deference relates to the person's position in society or the community; whereas reverence relates more to the person's character.


"Deference" is what one gives to a person who is more knowledgeable or capable than oneself. For instance, one might give deference to their mentor, because they are far more experienced and skilled. One defers to their expertise. In some cases, however, superior abilities are not actually present, but treated as if they were, e.g. a mediocre supervisor at work might receive undeserved deference from underlings who are unwilling to take chances with their career.

"Reverence" is what one gives to a person who is more respected than oneself, usually due to a title or position, especially when tradition is involved. A catholic would revere the pope, or a child would revere their parents. In some cases respect is demanded rather than deserved, and reverence actually may be withheld in those cases. People are frequently irreverent towards their leaders, for instance, as a show of defiance.

Note: In some cases, someone may merit both deference and reverence. For example, the classic concept of a a tribe's wise man, who would be both knowledgeable and respected.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.