con·​tem·​pla·​tive | \ kən-ˈtem-plə-tiv How to pronounce contemplative (audio) ; ˈkän-təm-ˌplā-, -ˌtem- How to pronounce contemplative (audio) \

Definition of contemplative

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: marked by or given to contemplation specifically : of or relating to a religious order devoted to prayer and penance a contemplative order of nuns



Definition of contemplative (Entry 2 of 2)

: a person who practices contemplation

Other Words from contemplative


contemplatively adverb
contemplativeness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for contemplative

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adjective

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Examples of contemplative in a Sentence

Adjective He has lived a quiet, contemplative life. She joined a contemplative order of nuns.
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective She’s alone, silent, contemplative and comfortable in her pastoral solitude. David Fear, Rolling Stone, 28 July 2022 The answers to my questions were contemplative and self-aware paragraphs, as if the girdle of poetic form had been loosened. Danny Freedman, Outside Online, 8 July 2022 Written from the perspective of a scholar in visual rhetoric — a lesbian raising a toddler with her wife — the commentary calls out the photographer’s decision to depict her portrait subjects as solitary, contemplative, even mournful. Melissa Hart, Longreads, 28 June 2022 But Alva grew contemplative in their hotel room afterward, Alicia recalled. Washington Post, 29 Dec. 2021 Instead, Smith offers an idea in a contemplative way: a polyphonic passage, a drone or a melody that starts, pauses and repeats with a slight but crucial change. New York Times, 13 July 2022 For those attuned to perceive it, the great weight of this knowledge comes to rest within a wordless contemplative space, making the heart tremble as readily as any sermon or hymn. Lee Billings, Scientific American, 12 July 2022 For decades the nuns quietly lived in seclusion, spending their days in contemplative prayer and doing chores, from cooking to cleaning to making their own clothes. Emily Sweeney,, 10 July 2022 The cover art features a contemplative black-and-white pic of the singer staring into the distance while rocking a shimmering silver headwrap. Gil Kaufman, Billboard, 7 July 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Stolevski treats every frame with a gentle, Terrence Malick–ian touch, creating a contemplative—and spellbinding—study of the human condition through the eyes of an unconventional subject. David Sims, The Atlantic, 27 Jan. 2022 Being near the most sacred part of the house made a contemplative out of her. Kathryn Jean Lopez, National Review, 3 May 2021 The figures are dressed in a contemporary athletic style that emphasizes their strength, but the posturing is casual and timeless, ranging from contemplative to statuesque. Danielle Avram, Dallas News, 16 Dec. 2020 Harmony is at the heart of plaza life, the communal ties between tables, the whole mishmash crowd in this shifting encampment, taking the sun, contemplatives in the land of commerce. Garrison Keillor, Harper's magazine, 22 July 2019 Regarding cross-checking interpersonal experience, both contemplatives and the texts dealing with the various experiences a meditator might encounter are quite precise in their descriptions. Matthieu Ricard, The Atlantic, 17 Dec. 2017 See More

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

First Known Use of contemplative


14th century, in the meaning defined above


14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for contemplative


Middle English contemplatif "devoted to or concerned with spiritual meditation," borrowed from Anglo-French & Medieval Latin; Anglo-French, borrowed from Medieval Latin contemplātīvus, going back to Latin, "theoretical, speculative," from contemplātus, past participle of contemplāre, contemplārī "to look at fixedly, observe, notice, ponder" + -īvus -ive — more at contemplate


Middle English contemplatyfe "person devoted to spiritual meditation," borrowed from Medieval Latin contemplātīvus, noun derivative of contemplātīvus "devoted to or concerned with spiritual meditation" — more at contemplative entry 1

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

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Last Updated

11 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Contemplative.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Aug. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on contemplative

Nglish: Translation of contemplative for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of contemplative for Arabic Speakers


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