adjective

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

Essential Meaning of adjective

: a word that describes a noun or a pronoun The words blue in "the blue car," deep in "the water is deep," and tired in "I'm very tired" are adjectives.

Full 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

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

Keep scrolling for more

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 By the 1930s, the word had morphed into an adjective that meant an active or intractable member of a group — first in reference to the unemployed, and then to political activists. Washington Post, 13 Sep. 2021 There's hardly a director working today whose output is as stylistically distinct and instantly recognizable as Anderson's; at this point, he's become both an adjective and a genre unto himself. Leah Greenblatt, EW.com, 4 Sep. 2021 Unlike the nonsense that took place from Sunday through Tuesday, there’s nothing harmlessly entertaining about the familiar news that broke Wednesday afternoon, when acting general manager — has an adjective ever seemed so appropriate? Jerry Beach, Forbes, 2 Sep. 2021 The guy has a tendency to repeat the same adjective twice in one breath. Hannah Yasharoff, USA TODAY, 10 Aug. 2021 Breakthrough is still used as an adjective of praise; the pandemic has now warped the word into a foreboding noun that tends to eclipse all clarifying qualifiers. Katherine J. Wu, The Atlantic, 13 July 2021 That’d be something, as ‘tough’ isn’t an adjective often used to describe the Wildcats in recent seasons. oregonlive, 3 Aug. 2021 That’s not usually the first adjective used in high-rise living, even luxury high rises. Kathrine Nero, The Enquirer, 1 Aug. 2021 Even before that, the Oxford Dictionary threw in the towel on a collective truth by declaring the word of 2016 to be an Orwellian adjective: post-truth. Washington Post, 29 July 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Corporate sales count shenanigans aside, the new 2021 no-adjective Rogue is primed to be a hit, one of the bestselling compact SUVs in the country. Dallas News, 10 Oct. 2020 Corporate sales count shenanigans aside, the new 2021 no-adjective Rogue is primed to be a hit, one of the bestselling compact SUVs in the country. Dallas News, 10 Oct. 2020 But even as the concept of an icon is timeless, the meaning of the adjective iconic has shifted over time. Kaitlyn Greenidge, Harper's BAZAAR, 18 Aug. 2021 Corporate sales count shenanigans aside, the new 2021 no-adjective Rogue is primed to be a hit, one of the bestselling compact SUVs in the country. Dallas News, 10 Oct. 2020 Corporate sales count shenanigans aside, the new 2021 no-adjective Rogue is primed to be a hit, one of the bestselling compact SUVs in the country. Dallas News, 10 Oct. 2020 Corporate sales count shenanigans aside, the new 2021 no-adjective Rogue is primed to be a hit, one of the bestselling compact SUVs in the country. Dallas News, 10 Oct. 2020 Corporate sales count shenanigans aside, the new 2021 no-adjective Rogue is primed to be a hit, one of the bestselling compact SUVs in the country. Dallas News, 10 Oct. 2020 Corporate sales count shenanigans aside, the new 2021 no-adjective Rogue is primed to be a hit, one of the bestselling compact SUVs in the country. Dallas News, 10 Oct. 2020

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About adjective

Time Traveler for adjective

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near adjective

adjectival

adjective

adjective equivalent

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for adjective

Last Updated

23 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Adjective.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/adjective. Accessed 26 Sep. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for adjective

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.

More from Merriam-Webster on adjective

Nglish: Translation of adjective for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of adjective for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about adjective

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Dog Words Quiz

  • shiba puppy more or less demanding cuddles
  • Which of the following animals has a dog in its etymology?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!