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adjective pas·sive \ˈpa-siv\

Simple Definition of passive

  • —used to describe someone who allows things to happen or who accepts what other people do or decide without trying to change anything

  • grammar of a verb or voice : showing that the subject of a sentence is acted on or affected by the verb

  • : containing a passive verb form

Full Definition of passive

  1. 1 a (1) :  acted upon by an external agency (2) :  receptive to outside impressions or influences b (1) :  asserting that the grammatical subject of a verb is subjected to or affected by the action represented by that verb <the passive voice> (2) :  containing or yielding a passive verb form c (1) :  lacking in energy or will :  lethargic (2) :  tending not to take an active or dominant part d :  induced by an outside agency <passive exercise of a paralyzed leg>

  2. 2 a :  not active or operating :  inert b :  of, relating to, or making direct use of the sun's heat usually without the intervention of mechanical devices <a passive solar house> c :  latent d (1) :  of, relating to, or characterized by a state of chemical inactivity; especially :  resistant to corrosion (2) :  not involving expenditure of chemical energy <passive transport across a cell membrane> e of an electronic element :  exhibiting no gain or control f :  relating to the detection of an object through its emission of energy or sound <passive sonar>

  3. 3 a :  receiving or enduring without resistance :  submissive b :  existing or occurring without being active, open, or direct <passive support>

  4. 4 :  of, relating to, or being business activity in which the investor does not actively participate in the generation of income

pas·sive·ly adverb
pas·sive·ness noun
pas·siv·i·ty play \pa-ˈsi-və-tē\ noun

Examples of passive

  1. The destructive myth/legend of Herbert Hoover strikes again. The nation's 31st President has chronically been portrayed as passive in the face of the Great Depression and his successor, Franklin Roosevelt, as the exact opposite—an activist who, if he didn't actually cure the Depression, at least profoundly improved the nation's battered psychology. —Steve Forbes, Forbes, 30 June 2008

  2. He believes that the time has come for Europeans to discard their passive role with respect to the United States and that Americans must be made to understand why. —Nicholas Fraser, Harper's, May 2006

  3. Throughout the streets of Moscow last Wednesday, word of the ignominious flight of the Soviet Union's would-be junta brought a sense not of jubilation, but of quiet relief that a bloody civil war had been averted, and of satisfaction that the myth of the passive, obedient Russian people might be laid to rest. —Fred Hiatt, Washington Post, 26 Aug.-1 Sept. 1991

  4. Hits in She hits the ball is active, while hit in The ball was hit is passive.

  5. In He was hit by the ball, hit is a passive verb.

Origin of passive

Middle English, from Latin passivus, from passus, past participle

First Known Use: 14th century

Synonym Discussion of passive

inactive, idle, inert, passive, supine mean not engaged in work or activity. inactive applies to anyone or anything not in action or in operation or at work <on inactive status as an astronaut> <inactive accounts>. idle applies to persons that are not busy or occupied or to their powers or their implements <workers were idle in the fields>. inert as applied to things implies powerlessness to move or to affect other things; as applied to persons it suggests an inherent or habitual indisposition to activity <inert ingredients in drugs> <an inert citizenry>. passive implies immobility or lack of normally expected response to an external force or influence and often suggests deliberate submissiveness or self-control <passive resistance>. supine applies only to persons and commonly implies abjectness or indolence <a supine willingness to play the fool>.

Rhymes with passive



noun pas·sive \ˈpa-siv\

Definition of passive

  1. 1 :  a verb form whose grammatical subject is subjected to or affected by the action represented by that verb :  a passive verb form

  2. 2 :  the passive voice of a language

Origin of passive

(see 1passive)

First Known Use: 1530

Other Grammar and Linguistics Terms

PASSIVE Defined for Kids


adjective pas·sive \ˈpa-siv\

Definition of passive

  1. 1 :  not taking an active part <We were passive spectators.>

  2. 2 :  showing that the person or thing represented by the subject is acted on by the verb <The phrase “were met” in “we were met by our friends” is passive.>

  3. 3 :  offering no resistance <The captives showed passive obedience.>

pas·sive·ly adverb

Medical Dictionary


adjective pas·sive \ˈpas-iv\

Medical Definition of passive

  1. 1a:  lethargic or lacking in energy or will:  tending not to take an active or dominant part <a passive spouse>b:  induced by an outside agency <passive exercise of a paralyzed leg>

  2. 2a:  of, relating to, or characterized by a state of chemical inactivityb:  not involving expenditure of chemical energy <passive transport across a plasma membrane>

  3. pas·sive·ly adverb
    pas·sive·ness noun

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February 10, 2016

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