ex·​ple·​tive | \ˈek-splə-tiv \

Definition of expletive 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a : 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

b : an exclamatory word or phrase especially : one that is obscene or profane

2 : one that serves to fill out or as a filling



Definition of expletive (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : serving to fill up expletive phrases

2 : marked by the use of expletives

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Examples of expletive in a Sentence


Angry expletives filled the air. Expletives were deleted from the transcript of their conversation.

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The teens have won poetry slams nationally and internationally, conveying their perspectives with impassioned expletives, and showing up to competitions and events unapologetic about their identities. Jewel Wicker, Teen Vogue, "Meet the People Empowering Baltimore Teens With Dirt Bikes, Burgers, and Yoga," 27 Aug. 2018 In a brief, expletive-laced mini-rant over his radio at the end of the stage, Busch didn’t hold back, criticizing Harvick. Michelle R. Martinelli, For The Win, "The absurd reason Kurt Busch left Sunday's race fuming at teammate Kevin Harvick," 3 July 2018 The footage shows a 39-year-old teacher's aide forcefully slamming and holding a student by his neck, yelling expletives in his face. Caroline Picard, Good Housekeeping, "Teacher's Aide Arrested After Choking Student," 22 Apr. 2016 What is our city administration doing about this (expletive)? Hannah Sparling, Cincinnati.com, "Is this guy a public-transit superhero? Or is he just a pain in the butt?," 10 July 2018 To view this video please enable JavaScript, and consider upgrading to a web browser that : 0%: 0% While Bee often peppers Full Frontal with expletives, this is the first noticeable instance of her targeting a Trump family member in such a way. D. Elizabeth, Teen Vogue, "Samantha Bee Apologizes to Ivanka Trump for "Full Frontal" Comments," 31 May 2018 But aside from the lack of an investigation into Dunlap, Legacy-Cole argued the punishment for Schellhorn’s expletive-laden post was insufficient. Bianca Padró Ocasio, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Activist criticizes OPD as citizen review of officer's Facebook comments remains in limbo," 2 May 2018 In the aftermath of receiving the news, the juvenile engaged the court in an expletive-laden retort, according to an account from the DA's office. Jared Boyd, AL.com, "Student charged for shooting gun at Mobile high school removed from court for outburst," 29 Jan. 2018 The use of the expletive upset many fans, prompting an apology from Bee and TBS on social media the next day. Tyler Mccarthy, Fox News, "Samantha Bee may have apologized but Kathy Griffin, Sally Field, other Hollywood liberals standing by her," 1 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Detectives later found an expletive spray-painted on the closet door. Crimesider Staff, CBS News, "Police: Teen found shot dead in abandoned house died during "Russian roulette"," 14 June 2018 In the footage, an officer is heard using expletive terms with the suspect. Brieanna J Frank, azcentral, "Two Mesa officers put on leave as police investigate another use-of-force incident," 7 June 2018 In front of three other referees, Barone said, the coach used a graphic, expletive-laced anti-gay slur. Written By Jason Buckland ; Photographs By Marta Iwanek, New York Times, "A Gay Referee Tries to Find His Place in Hockey," 23 Apr. 2018 County Attorney's Office records said that Hammelton responded to the officer's demands with expletive terms. Chris Mccrory, azcentral, "Flagstaff police officers won't be charged in fatal shooting of 78-year-old," 17 May 2018 Campbell, who is an assistant coach at Miami Edison High but previously coached at Central, Northwestern, Norland and Jackson, replied with a few expletive-laced tweets on Wednesday. David Furones, Sun-Sentinel.com, "Jonathan Vilma, Luther Campbell engage in Twitter feud over Miami Hurricanes," 19 Apr. 2018 Wylie has colorfully describes himself as the gay Canadian vegan who somehow ended up creating Steve Bannon's psychological warfare mind expletive tool. NBC News, "Meet the Press - April 8, 2018," 8 Apr. 2018 The Liverpool Echo reported that a 23-year-old British woman and her three female traveling companions were removed from flight EZY1975 for her intoxicated, expletive-laden tirade at 30,000 feet, as evidenced in video footage. Janine Puhak, Fox News, "Women kicked off EasyJet flight following vulgar midair rant," 28 Mar. 2018 The tension reached its peak July 5, when Kardashian repeatedly posted graphic and expletive-ridden content about his ex on social media — including three naked photos — while accusing her of drug use, alcohol abuse and infidelity. Aurelie Corinthios, PEOPLE.com, "Rob Kardashian Turns 31: Inside His Secluded Life and Focus on Fatherhood," 17 Mar. 2018

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


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


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for expletive


Late Latin expletivus, from Latin expletus, past participle of explēre to fill out, from ex- + plēre to fill — more at full

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Statistics for expletive

Last Updated

13 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for expletive

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

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More Definitions for expletive



English Language Learners Definition of expletive

: a word or phrase (such as “Damn it!”) that people sometimes say when they are angry or in pain; especially : one that is offensive

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Comments on expletive

What made you want to look up expletive? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


by force of circumstances

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