objective correlative


: something (such as a situation or chain of events) that symbolizes or objectifies a particular emotion and that may be used in creative writing to evoke a desired emotional response in the reader

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web For the rest of us, the year was mainly defined by a months-long runny nose, a sort of objective correlative for our now-permanent sense of dread. oregonlive, 21 Dec. 2022 Saturday’s march is the objective correlative of that. David Zurawik, baltimoresun.com, 23 Mar. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'objective correlative.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


Note: As a literary term introduced by T. S eliot in the essay "Hamlet and His Problems," The Athenaeum, no. 4665, September 26, 1919, p. 941. In a more general philosophical sense the phrase was used by Washington allston in a posthumously published "Lecture on Art" (Lectures on Art, and Poems, New York, 1850, p. 16).

First Known Use

1919, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of objective correlative was in 1919

Dictionary Entries Near objective correlative

Cite this Entry

“Objective correlative.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/objective%20correlative. Accessed 22 Mar. 2023.

More from Merriam-Webster on objective correlative

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!

Challenging Standardized Test Words, Vol. 2

  • a pencil broken in half on top of a test answer sheet
  • The business’s new computer system proved not to be a panacea.
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Solve today's spelling word game by finding as many words as you can with using just 7 letters. Longer words score more points.

Can you make 12 words with 7 letters?