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

Kid Rock used an expletive to talk about Joy on Fox and Friends. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "'The View' Star Joy Behar and Kid Rock's Feud Goes Further Back Than People Realize," 3 Dec. 2018 Television replays appeared to show Giles using an expletive when manager A.J. Hinch came out to replace him in a game the Astros eventually won 6-5 in 11 innings. Steve Gardner, USA TODAY, "Houston Astros send Ken Giles to minors after fiery ninth-inning exit," 11 July 2018 The tight-jeaned crooner stole the hearts of all the young ladies with every expletive imaginable. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Best and worst of Summerfest Day 2: Marshmello, Nelly, Tory Lanez, Buckcherry and more," 28 June 2018 Months after celebrating with the Eagles after the Super Bowl win with expletives, Hart was courtside with Allen Iverson for the 76ers’ Game 2 playoff loss to the Miami Heat, as Dwyane Wade dropped 28 points. Charles Curtis, For The Win, "Dwyane Wade's trash-talk rivalry with Kevin Hart is the best NBA playoffs development," 17 Apr. 2018 As a result, Morocco’s bid to host what will be a 48-team, 80-game event has gained favor with many countries in Africa, Asia and South America — including countries which President Trump disparaged with those expletives. Jonathan Tannenwald, Philly.com, "Warnings about North American 2026 World Cup bid heard loud and clear at Telemundo," 6 Mar. 2018 But Scaramucci had enemies at the White House, and his decision to go on record and blast top White House staffers in on record quotes laced with expletives and vulgarities led Trump to remove him from the position only 11 days later. Vivian Salama, NBC News, "Trump remains the biggest obstacle in his administration’s messaging," 14 Jan. 2018 Anti-fascist protesters carried signs with expletive-laden insults. Jamey Keaten, The Seattle Times, "Finland protests: Human rights for all _ and save the planet," 16 July 2018 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

In a 45-minute, expletive-laced rant on his SiriusXM radio show Monday night, Howard Stern railed against embattled CBS chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves, accusing the powerful executive of trying to ruin his life. Gerren Keith Gaynor, Fox News, "Howard Stern says CBS' Leslie Moonves 'tried to ruin my life'," 7 Aug. 2018 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

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

9 Jan 2019

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).


a complex dispute or argument

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