de·​scrip·​tive | \ di-ˈskrip-tiv How to pronounce descriptive (audio) \

Definition of descriptive

1 : presenting observations about the characteristics of someone or something : serving to describe a descriptive account
2a : referring to, constituting, or grounded in matters of observation or experience the descriptive basis of science
b : factually grounded or informative rather than normative, prescriptive, or emotive descriptive cultural studies
3 of a modifier
a : expressing the quality, kind, or condition of what is denoted by the modified term hot in "hot water" is a descriptive adjective
4 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

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Other Words from descriptive

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.
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Recent Examples on the Web So far, close to 350 cases have been documented through the registry and descriptive anecdotes are flowing in almost every day through emails from concerned patients and parents. Jason Gale, Fortune, "‘Hard to believe’: Scientists alarmed by COVID’s diabetes link, particularly in children," 5 May 2021 Moreover, most of these empirical investigations were solely descriptive in nature. Time, "The World’s Leading Medical Journals Don't Write About Racism. That's a Problem," 21 Apr. 2021 Written in the same lushly descriptive, emotive vein, this sequel conveys how their experience—and her book about it—changed their lives. Heller Mcalpin, WSJ, "‘The Wild Silence’ Review: Land’s End," 26 Mar. 2021 In Mark’s photos of girls, their struggles are descriptive, not deterministic. Washington Post, "Photographer Mary Ellen Mark captured the contradictions of modern girlhood," 21 Apr. 2021 The path to enterprise autonomous operations includes three major stages of analytics: descriptive, predictive and prescriptive analytics. Akhilesh Tripathi, Forbes, "Why Prescriptive Analytics Can Help Achieve Autonomous Enterprise Operations," 16 Apr. 2021 The nuances are not always immediately recognizable, but the descriptive wall labels help a lot. Leyla Shokoohe, The Enquirer, "Why am I so moved by this? How an art museum soothed my quarantine-fatigued soul," 9 Apr. 2021 Rather than provide a didactic encyclopedic-style survey of the uses and impact of comedy in Native American communities, Nesteroff takes a descriptive journalism approach, letting comedians tell their stories. Brian Boone, Vulture, "The Best Comedy Books of 2021 (So Far)," 7 Apr. 2021 Only that officials use descriptive adjectives all the time to help U.S. citizens understand the scope of various problems and challenges. Naomi Lim, Washington Examiner, "White House spokeswoman refuses to disclose migrant children numbers at US-Mexico border," 9 Mar. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'descriptive.' 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 descriptive

1593, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for descriptive

see describe

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Time Traveler for descriptive

Time Traveler

The first known use of descriptive was in 1593

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Statistics for descriptive

Last Updated

8 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Descriptive.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for descriptive



English Language Learners Definition of descriptive

: giving information about how something or someone looks, sounds, etc. : using words to describe what something or someone is like
technical : providing facts about how a language is actually used rather than rules that tell people how it should be used


de·​scrip·​tive | \ di-ˈskrip-tiv How to pronounce descriptive (audio) \

Kids Definition of descriptive

: giving information about what something is like She wrote a very descriptive letter about her trip.

Comments on descriptive

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