de·​scrip·​tive di-ˈskrip-tiv How to pronounce descriptive (audio)
: presenting observations about the characteristics of someone or something : serving to describe
a descriptive account
: referring to, constituting, or grounded in matters of observation or experience
the descriptive basis of science
: factually grounded or informative rather than normative, prescriptive, or emotive
descriptive cultural studies
of a modifier
: expressing the quality, kind, or condition of what is denoted by the modified term
hot in "hot water" is a descriptive adjective
linguistics : of, relating to, or dealing with the structure of a language at a particular time usually with exclusion of historical and comparative data
descriptive linguistics
descriptively adverb
descriptiveness noun

Examples of descriptive in a Sentence

She gave a descriptive account of the journey. a talent for descriptive writing a poem full of descriptive detail The black cat was given the descriptive name “Midnight.” The book is a descriptive grammar.
Recent Examples on the Web In contrast, Leggett said, Indigenous place names are almost always descriptive. Yereth Rosen, Anchorage Daily News, 25 Aug. 2023 View Photos The monikers for motorcycle genres are charmingly descriptive. Ezra Dyer, Car and Driver, 17 Aug. 2023 Whether or not this seems plainly descriptive or ominous is a question for the reader. Curbed, 9 May 2023 According to Byron, the Northfield State Fair, aka Ribfest, now has a new name, the Clarkson Cookout, which is much less confusing and more descriptive of the event itself. Gina Grillo, Chicago Tribune, 11 Sep. 2023 Areas of further research include smell intensity; mixtures and concentrations of multiple basic scent molecules; digitizing real-world smells when molecular structures aren’t a given; and improving descriptive power. IEEE Spectrum, 4 Sep. 2023 The descriptive narration in the Afro Sheen commercials added a serene, majestic, and powerful statement for Black hair ads in the 1970s. India Espy-Jones, Essence, 10 Aug. 2023 The trial will be on TV The other pending trials will feature what might seem like an archaic form of journalism, the courtroom drawing, plus the descriptive powers of reporters to convey in words the dramatic exchanges between witnesses and prosecutors, between witnesses and defense lawyers. Susan Page, USA TODAY, 17 Aug. 2023 So that is the norm, both descriptive, and because so many people do it, it's become injunctive. Sabrina Weiss, Peoplemag, 6 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'descriptive.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


see describe

First Known Use

1593, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of descriptive was in 1593

Dictionary Entries Near descriptive

Cite this Entry

“Descriptive.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Oct. 2023.

Kids Definition


de·​scrip·​tive di-ˈskrip-tiv How to pronounce descriptive (audio)
: serving to describe
a descriptive account
a descriptive adjective
descriptively adverb
descriptiveness noun
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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