adjective

noun
ad·​jec·​tive | \ ˈa-jik-tiv also ˈa-jə-tiv How to pronounce adjective (audio) \

Definition of adjective

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a word belonging to one of the major form classes in any of numerous languages and typically serving as a modifier of a noun to denote a quality of the thing named, to indicate its quantity or extent, or to specify a thing as distinct from something else The word red in "the red car" is an adjective.

adjective

adjective
ad·​jec·​tive | \ ˈa-jik-tiv also ˈa-jə-tiv How to pronounce adjective (audio) \

Definition of adjective (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : of, relating to, or functioning as an adjective an adjective clause
2 : not standing by itself : dependent
3 : requiring or employing a mordant adjective dyes
4 : procedural adjective law

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Other Words from adjective

Adjective

adjectively adverb

What is an adjective?

Noun

Adjectives describe or modify—that is, they limit or restrict the meaning of—nouns and pronouns. They may name qualities of all kinds: huge, red, angry, tremendous, unique, rare, etc.

An adjective usually comes right before a noun: "a red dress," "fifteen people." When an adjective follows a linking verb such as be or seem, it is called a predicate adjective: "That building is huge," "The workers seem happy." Most adjectives can be used as predicate adjectives, although some are always used before a noun. Similarly, a few adjectives can only be used as predicate adjectives and are never used before a noun.

Some adjectives describe qualities that can exist in different amounts or degrees. To do this, the adjective will either change in form (usually by adding -er or -est) or will be used with words like more, most, very, slightly, etc.: "the older girls," "the longest day of the year," "a very strong feeling," "more expensive than that one." Other adjectives describe qualities that do not vary—"nuclear energy," "a medical doctor"—and do not change form.

The four demonstrative adjectivesthis, that, these, and those—are identical to the demonstrative pronouns. They are used to distinguish the person or thing being described from others of the same category or class. This and these describe people or things that are nearby, or in the present. That and those are used to describe people or things that are not here, not nearby, or in the past or future. These adjectives, like the definite and indefinite articles (a, an, and the), always come before any other adjectives that modify a noun.

An indefinite adjective describes a whole group or class of people or things, or a person or thing that is not identified or familiar. The most common indefinite adjectives are: all, another, any, both, each, either, enough, every, few, half, least, less, little, many, more, most, much, neither, one (and two, three, etc.), other, several, some, such, whole.

The interrogative adjectives—primarily which, what, and whose—are used to begin questions. They can also be used as interrogative pronouns.

Which horse did you bet on? = Which did you bet on?

What songs did they sing? = What did they sing?

Whose coat is this? = Whose is this?

The possessive adjectivesmy, your, his, her, its, our, their—tell you who has, owns, or has experienced something, as in "I admired her candor, "Our cat is 14 years old," and "They said their trip was wonderful."

Nouns often function like adjectives. When they do, they are called attributive nouns.

When two or more adjectives are used before a noun, they should be put in proper order. Any article (a, an, the), demonstrative adjective (that, these, etc.), indefinite adjective (another, both, etc.), or possessive adjective (her, our, etc.) always comes first. If there is a number, it comes first or second. True adjectives always come before attributive nouns. The ordering of true adjectives will vary, but the following order is the most common: opinion wordsizeageshapecolornationalitymaterial.

Participles are often used like ordinary adjectives. They may come before a noun or after a linking verb. A present participle (an -ing word) describes the person or thing that causes something; for example, a boring conversation is one that bores you. A past participle (usually an -ed word) describes the person or thing who has been affected by something; for example, a bored person is one who has been affected by boredom.

They had just watched an exciting soccer game.

The instructions were confusing.

She's excited about the trip to North Africa.

Several confused students were asking questions about the test.

The lake was frozen.

Examples of adjective in a Sentence

Noun

The words blue in “the blue car,” deep in “the water is deep,” and tired in “I'm very tired” are adjectives.

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Girls get a bad rap for being emotional/dramatic/extra/[insert annoying adjective here], but your opinions are legit and deserve to be heard. 14. Hannah Orenstein, Seventeen, "17 Surprising Ways You've Internalized Misogyny," 8 Mar. 2019 According to The Elements of Eloquence author Forsyth, English adjectives are always listed in this order when used before a noun: opinion, size, age, shape, color, origin, material and purpose. Heather Finn, Good Housekeeping, "We Bet You've Never Heard This English Language Rule," 6 Sep. 2016 The gateway to ugly — an adjective used here with affection — was the Birkenstock. Robin Givhan, The Seattle Times, "Are designers trolling us with ‘ugly’ fashion — or is it us?," 6 Aug. 2018 Only Issa Rae could make the adjectives awkward and insecure chic. USA TODAY, "Meghan Markle, Adam Rippon, Issa Rae hit 'Time' 100 Most Influential list," 19 Apr. 2018 These three adjectives–plus the slightly more specific demand for a blue kitchen–left Albanese with total freedom for the design. Lucia Tonelli, ELLE Decor, "A Vivacious Canadian Lake House With a Joyful Sense of Irreverence," 24 Dec. 2018 Threw in a few more adjectives here and there to extend the pleasure of the experience. Maggie Maloney, Town & Country, "Read Brian Mulroney's Moving Eulogy at George H.W. Bush's Funeral," 5 Dec. 2018 Cozy, quaint, and tranquil are a few adjectives to describe yet another dorm room at The University of Mississippi. Katelyn Chef, Teen Vogue, "University of Mississippi Freshmen Dorm Decor," 28 Aug. 2018 Instead, the word can only be described by playing cards that contain nouns, verbs, adjectives, and relations. Nate Anderson, Ars Technica, "Eight great board games we played at PAX Unplugged," 8 Dec. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Often the best strategy here is to think of action verbs, then modify them into adjective form. Peter Jones, USA TODAY, "Use these 8 words to describe yourself during a job interview," 17 Aug. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'adjective.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of adjective

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined above

Adjective

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for adjective

Noun

Middle English adjectif, borrowed from Anglo-French & Late Latin; Anglo-French adjectyf, borrowed from Late Latin adjectīvum, from neuter of adjectivus adjective entry 2 (as translation of Greek epítheton)

Adjective

Middle English adjectif, borrowed from Anglo-French & Late Latin; Anglo-French adjectyf, borrowed from Late Latin adjectīvus, from Latin adjectus (past participle of adjicere "to throw at, attach, contribute, add to (in speech or writing)," from ad- ad- + jacere "to throw") + -īvus -ive — more at jet entry 3

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Statistics for adjective

Last Updated

31 Mar 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for adjective

The first known use of adjective was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for adjective

adjective

noun

English Language Learners Definition of adjective

: a word that describes a noun or a pronoun

adjective

noun
ad·​jec·​tive | \ ˈa-jik-tiv How to pronounce adjective (audio) \

Kids Definition of adjective

: a word that says something about a noun or pronoun In the phrases “good people,” “someone good,” “it's good to be here,” and “they seem very good” the word “good” is an adjective.

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More from Merriam-Webster on adjective

Spanish Central: Translation of adjective

Nglish: Translation of adjective for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of adjective for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about adjective

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