adjective

noun
ad·​jec·​tive | \ˈa-jik-tiv also ˈa-jə-tiv \

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 \

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

Take the ‘strong’ out of it, find another adjective, dammit. Lucy Wood, Marie Claire, "Emilia Clarke Is Tired of Being Asked About Playing a "Strong Woman"," 15 Aug. 2018 In part because ‘69’ can serve a noun, verb, or adjective, the exhibition is appropriately all-encompassing. Rachel Hahn, Vogue, "Exclusive: 69’s Anonymous Designer on the Brand’s Retrospective at MOCA," 20 July 2018 With a staging that feels at once spare and full of life, Elliott’s National Theatre production — first in London, now in New York — has been wringing adjectives from critics: vivid, funny, elegant, clever, striking, enthralling. Craig Nakano, latimes.com, "Marianne Elliott, the British director who sent 'Angels in America' back into flight," 7 June 2018 And then there are words for male private parts that have evolved into positive adjectives, indicating power, dominance, swagger. The Washington Post, NOLA.com, "Let's talk about the c-word -- and why it's so taboo," 2 June 2018 There are a bunch more adjectives in this book than there need to be, and at times the already innately dramatic is overdramatized. John Timpane, Philly.com, "'Man Who Caught the Storm': A tempestuous, true tale of a legendary storm-chaser," 18 May 2018 Happy is an apt adjective for how Huggins is feeling these days. Edward Lee, baltimoresun.com, "Fully healthy, Foster Huggins enjoying career year for Loyola Maryland men’s lacrosse," 20 Apr. 2018 Those moments where, in the space of a single adjective, the lens just shifts slightly. Joe Fassler, The Atlantic, "What Richard Pryor’s Stand-Up Can Teach Writers," 31 May 2018 Pick an adjective that belittles an opponent and tack it on to the poor bastard’s first name. Adam K. Raymond, Daily Intelligencer, "Trump Is Not Quite As Good at Affectionate Nicknames," 9 Feb. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Whatever adjective people want to use, Musk’s comments on the call had a measurable effect on the company’s share price in after-hours trading. Kirsten Korosec, Fortune, "Elon Musk Was Weirder Than Usual on Tesla's Earnings Call. Here Are the CEO's Best Lines," 3 May 2018 Interesting This map depicts the most common adjective people use when Googling each state. Lauren Le Vine, Redbook, "Morning Headlines: James Van Der Beek Welcomes Third Child, Leo and Jonah's Titanic Moment — and More," 27 Jan. 2014 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

24 Nov 2018

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 \

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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