pe·​jo·​ra·​tive | \ pi-ˈjȯr-ə-tiv How to pronounce pejorative (audio) , -ˈjär- also ˈpe-jə-rə-tiv or ˈpē- or -ˌrā- or ˈpej-rə- or ˈpēj- \

Definition of pejorative

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a word or phrase that has negative connotations (see connotation sense 1) or that is intended to disparage or belittle : a pejorative word or phrase


pe·​jo·​ra·​tive | \ pi-ˈjȯr-ə-tiv How to pronounce pejorative (audio) , -ˈjär- also ˈpe-jə-rə-tiv or ˈpē- or -ˌrā- or ˈpej-rə- or ˈpēj- \

Definition of pejorative (Entry 2 of 2)

: having negative connotations (see connotation sense 1) especially : tending to disparage or belittle : depreciatory

Other Words from pejorative


pejoratively adverb

Did you know?

"If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." Parents have given that good advice for years, but unfortunately many people haven't heeded it. The word pejorative makes it clear that both English and Latin speakers have long known that disparaging words can make a bad situation worse. Pejorative derives from the Late Latin adjective pējōrātus, which in turn comes from the Latin verb pējōrāre, meaning "to make or become worse." Although pejorative words have probably always been part of English, the adjective pejorative has only been found in English texts since the late 1880s. Before then, English speakers could rely on older synonyms of pejorative such as derogatory and uncomplimentary to describe disparaging words.

Examples of pejorative in a Sentence

Adjective Children born with an extra chromosome 21 are healthy, conspicuously happy and destined to live for many years. But they are not considered, in that pejorative word, 'normal'. — Matt Ridley, Genome, 1999 The word barbarian was used by the Greeks, to designate an alien, and therefore, by definition, someone inferior in culture to a Hellene. The Romans applied this in the pejorative sense to the people who came to live along the Rhine-Danube frontier. — Norman F. Cantor, The Civilization of the Middle Ages, 1993 On occasion they expressed a preference for the terms Latino or Hispanic if that would assist them in escaping from the term Puerto Rican, which became, at times, almost pejorative. — John Hope Franklin, "The Land of Room Enough," 1981, in Race and History1989 a word with pejorative connotations the reviewer used the pejorative word “versifier” to refer to the writer, whose poems had struck a responsive chord with the general public
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun So strong are the negative associations that the word itself has become a pejorative for someone deceitful or disloyal. Jacob Stern, The Atlantic, 8 July 2022 Your character said this to Maverick as a pejorative, but did Cruise’s reputation precede him in the best possible way? Brian Davids, The Hollywood Reporter, 25 May 2022 Some say it’s a pejorative and insist everyone has a right to draw on their faith and values to try to influence public policy. Peter Smith And Deepa Bharath, Anchorage Daily News, 29 May 2022 Jogging was a huge fad in the 1970s during the original recreational running boom, but the word eventually became a condescending pejorative within competitive, race-centric running culture. Brian Metzler, Outside Online, 2 Mar. 2022 His classmates snickered and called him indio—Indian—a pejorative for anyone with non-European blood. Longreads, 19 Jan. 2022 The famed conservationist fought to preserve Yosemite Valley and Sequoia National Forest but also referred to African Americans with a racist pejorative more offensive than the n-word to many Black people. The Washington Post, Arkansas Online, 31 Oct. 2021 In back-and-forths among Gruden and Allen and some of their friends, Gruden seems more than elated to throw around slang terms for a woman’s genitalia as pejorative. Kurt Streeter, New York Times, 12 Oct. 2021 Where Baldwin saw the degrading American tradition of blackface, Loretan saw only a costume within the make-believe world of carnival—an imitation with intentions more philanthropic than pejorative. Thomas Chatterton Williams, Harper's Magazine, 28 Sep. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Members are sometimes referred to by a pejorative colloquialism derived from the name of the group's founder — the Rev. Sun Myung Moon. Grayson Quay, The Week, 10 July 2022 It’s from these pejorative meanings that the word’s usage broadened around the 1930s to refer to the mentally ill, becoming kind of a catchall term for crazy, along with other slang like bananas (which also was a slang term for a gay man) and nuts. Joseph Lamour, Bon Appétit, 22 June 2022 Soon, their coach earned a slew of pejorative nicknames like Nuthouse and Outhouse. New York Times, 9 May 2022 Finlandization, meanwhile, has long been viewed as a pejorative term in Finland itself. Washington Post, 11 Apr. 2022 Instead of the usual red cow against a backdrop of snowy mountains, the cow was spotted, and one spot resembled a pig – an apparent reference to the pejorative word for police, state police spokeswoman Stephanie Dasaro told Reuters. Miriam Fauzia, USA TODAY, 28 Oct. 2021 Amazon declined to comment about products on its site with pejorative statements about Alexa. Alexa Juliana Ard, Anchorage Daily News, 4 Dec. 2021 Amazon declined to comment about products on its site with pejorative statements about Alexa. Alexa Juliana Ard, Anchorage Daily News, 4 Dec. 2021 Amazon declined to comment about products on its site with pejorative statements about Alexa. Alexa Juliana Ard, Anchorage Daily News, 4 Dec. 2021 See More

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

First Known Use of pejorative


1882, in the meaning defined above


circa 1888, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for pejorative


noun derivative of pejorative entry 2


borrowed from New Latin pējōrātīvus, from Late Latin pējōrātus, past participle of pējōrāre "to make worse, aggravate" (derivative of Latin pējor "inferior, worse," going back to *ped-yos-, comparative of *ped-, extracted from *ped-tu- "a fall, falling") + Latin -īvus -ive — more at pessimism

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The first known use of pejorative was in 1882

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Last Updated

13 Jul 2022

Cite this Entry

“Pejorative.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Aug. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on pejorative

Nglish: Translation of pejorative for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of pejorative for Arabic Speakers


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