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ex·​ple·​tive ˈek-splə-tiv How to pronounce expletive (audio)
: a syllable, word, or phrase inserted to fill a vacancy (as in a sentence or a metrical line) without adding to the sense
especially : a word (such as it in "make it clear which you prefer") that occupies the position of the subject or object of a verb in normal English word order and anticipates a subsequent word or phrase that supplies the needed meaningful content
: an exclamatory word or phrase
especially : one that is obscene or profane
: one that serves to fill out or as a filling


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: serving to fill up
expletive phrases
: marked by the use of expletives

Examples of expletive in a Sentence

Noun Angry expletives filled the air. Expletives were deleted from the transcript of their conversation.
Recent Examples on the Web
Wallen has made his return to the music scene following the February 2021 video in which he was heard yelling the N-word and other expletives. Jackie Strause, The Hollywood Reporter, 8 Apr. 2024 And for those who care, her latest hip-hop banger is absent any expletives. Journal Sentinel, 1 Apr. 2024 Johnson recalled before dropping an expletive on-air. Jay Stahl, USA TODAY, 12 Jan. 2024 Neighbors reported hearing a man screaming expletives and a woman’s frantic apologies at all hours of the day. Nate Gartrell, The Mercury News, 6 Mar. 2024 At another point on set, Gutierrez Reed called her an offensive expletive. Gene Maddaus, Variety, 1 Mar. 2024 Shortly afterward, Salinas is heard firing gunshots and shouting expletives. The Arizona Republic, 23 Feb. 2024 There were some expletives sprinkled into his comments. Jace Evans, USA TODAY, 18 Jan. 2024 At the Jewish Museum talk this month, as security guards escorted one group of activists out, Cherkassky bade them farewell with an expletive. Marc Tracy, New York Times, 18 Feb. 2024

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

Word History



Middle English explatyvis (plural) "word serving an expletive function," borrowed from Late Latin explētīva (feminine) or explētīvum (neuter), noun derivatives of explētīvus "(of words, especially conjunctions) filling out a clause without changing the essential meaning" — more at expletive entry 2


Middle English expletyf "(of a conjunction) filling out the meaning of a following clause," borrowed from Middle French & Late Latin; Middle French expletif "serving to fill out a sentence, redundant," borrowed from Late Latin explētīvus "(of words, especially conjunctions) filling out a clause without changing the essential meaning," from Latin explētus, past participle of explēre "to fill up, satisfy, make good" (from ex- ex- entry 1 + plēre "to fill") + -īvus -ive — more at full entry 1

First Known Use


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of expletive was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near expletive

Cite this Entry

“Expletive.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/expletive. Accessed 13 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


: an exclamatory word or phrase
especially : swearword

More from Merriam-Webster on expletive

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