“Obsequious O’Brien was the teacher’s pet; predictably, he was not much liked by the other students.”

What is the best definition of obsequious?

Check your answer!

Choice A - Conscientious or attuned to others’ needs
Choice B - Overly attentive and fawning, for self-gain
Choice C - Deceitful or malicious in behavior
Choice D - Humorous and witty, but inappropriately so


Obsequious (adjective) – overly attentive and fawning – especially toward influential people – and typically in a way that is motivated by self-gain; or, in the manner of a servant 

GRE pro tips:

The adjective obsequious comes from the Latin root sequi, meaning “to follow;” other more common words derived from this root include sequel (a follow-up to the original) and consequence (a result that follows). Likewise, obsequious individuals are more likely to be followers than leaders – specifically, they will ride the coattails of the powerful and influential, using flattery to stay in their good graces.

One type of obsequious person you’ve probably encountered is the “teacher’s pet” – a student who is overly eager to flatter the teacher and answer all of his or her questions (but is likely not so friendly or polite to other classmates). Such obsequious people are overly obedient and submissive, even slavish. But they do so in a way that is insincere and ingratiating, aiming to win the favor of their superior by any means necessary.

Example sentences:

“The hotel’s waitstaff was impeccably trained – they were attentive and polite without being obsequious.”

“She was shrewd (as a business owner, she had to be), so the obsequious praise from the press did not go to her head.”