anal-re·​ten·​tive | \ ˈā-nᵊl-ri-ˈten-tiv How to pronounce anal-retentive (audio) \
variants: or anal retentive

Definition of anal-retentive

psychoanalytic theory
: exhibiting or typifying personality traits (such as frugality and obstinacy) held to be psychological consequences of toilet training Overextending psychic energy during the process of toilet training by holding back can result in fixating at the anal stage, creating an anal retentive personality as an adult. The anal retentive personality is characterized by the tendency to cope with conflicts later in life by demonstrating an extreme sense of cleanliness and orderliness, such as dusting furniture or waxing the car when troubled.— Bernardo J. Carducci often used in nontechnical contexts to describe someone as extremely or excessively neat, careful, or precise … is his father's clone—intense, focused, fuddy-duddy, severely anal-retentive, or as Archie puts it, "a neat freak."— Curry Kirkpatrick

Other Words from anal-retentive

anal-retentive or anal retentive noun
Anal-retentives hoping to use PCs to organize their lives … The Washington Post
anal-retentiveness or anal retentiveness noun
… maybe it's my anal retentiveness, my futile attempts to bring order to a chaotic world. Who knows? All I know is there's no more beautiful sight than firewood stacked in long, perfect rows. — Craig Wilson

First Known Use of anal-retentive

1943, in the meaning defined above

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The first known use of anal-retentive was in 1943

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Dictionary Entries Near anal-retentive

anal plate

anal pore

anal proleg



anal sac

anal vein

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Cite this Entry

“Anal-retentive.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Jul. 2021.

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More Definitions for anal-retentive



English Language Learners Definition of anal-retentive

: extremely or overly neat, careful, or precise


anal-re·​ten·​tive | \ ˈān-ᵊl-ri-ˈten-tiv How to pronounce anal-retentive (audio) \

Medical Definition of anal-retentive

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: characterized by personality traits (as frugality and obstinacy) held to be psychological sequelae of toilet training : anal sense 2b

Other Words from anal-retentive

anal retentiveness noun

anal retentive


Medical Definition of anal retentive (Entry 2 of 2)

: an anal-retentive individual

More from Merriam-Webster on anal-retentive

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for anal-retentive


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