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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web Throughout, the lyrics are more direct and descriptive, less humor-dependent than in the past. Karen Schoemer, SPIN, 1 May 2022 Support for a diversity-improvement program was lower in the experiential condition, with an average score of 71.07, compared with 74.5 in the descriptive condition. Emily Willingham, Scientific American, 27 Apr. 2022 My purpose in mentioning them is just to be descriptive as each relates to happiness, optimism, and prospects for future success, without regard to whether any of them are right or wrong. Chuck Bolotin, Forbes, 26 Dec. 2021 In the 1920s, naturalist J Harlen Bretz wrote several descriptive papers on the strange basins and odd channels of the area. Riley Black, Smithsonian Magazine, 19 Apr. 2022 The moment recasts the descriptive skill that Smith showcases as a technique developed in part to prove Alvin wrong. Emily Lordi, The New Yorker, 17 Apr. 2022 The insights could come from descriptive, predictive and prescriptive analytics algorithms where the output is presented in reports, visuals and dashboards. Prashanth Southekal, Forbes, 15 Apr. 2022 Angel sees many risks from less transparent descriptive data collection, like that drawn from cookies — from simple failure to gain consent to dangerous inferences designed to manipulate your emotional and cognitive vulnerabilities. Luke Peterson, The Salt Lake Tribune, 24 Feb. 2022 In other words, Jackson was being descriptive, not prescriptive. Matt Ford, The New Republic, 21 Mar. 2022 See More

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.

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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Dictionary Entries Near descriptive

descriptio personae


descriptive anatomy

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Statistics for descriptive

Last Updated

8 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Descriptive.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for descriptive


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.


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