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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from pejorative


pejoratively adverb

Did You Know?


If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. Moms 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 pejoratus, which in turn comes from the Latin verb pejorare, 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


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
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Some Sonorans, however, consider the term a pejorative, preferring instead tortillas de agua or tortillas grandes. Patricia Escárcega,, "Exploring Hermosillo, northern Mexico’s great unsung food city," 26 June 2019 No one in Anderson uses the term Redskins as a pejorative, or as a way to get a cheap laugh. Paul Daugherty,, "Paul Daugherty: Anderson Redskins debate lacks sensitivity, mutual understanding," 13 June 2018 But plenty of people mentioned the company in the pejorative — saying their practices were the result of introducing a profit motive into the correctional industry. Tad Vezner, Twin Cities, "Appleton prison proponents try to take ‘private’ out of the debate," 21 Mar. 2017 Simon Tam, front man for The Slants, sought to register the name with the Patent and Trademark Office as a rebuke to those who use it as a pejorative. WSJ, "Victory for The Slants," 19 June 2017 Yet this, too, feels somehow in keeping with the folk spirit—the reappropriation of a pejorative, the making new of an old idea. Amanda Petrusich, The New Yorker, "Keep Folk Music Weird," 19 Apr. 2017 After Republicans began throwing that term around as a pejorative, Mr. Obama embraced it. Carl Hulse, New York Times, "‘Repeal and Replace’: Words Still Hanging Over G.O.P.’s Health Care Strategy," 15 Jan. 2017

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

So to say this is 11th hour is not a -- is not pejorative. Fox News, "Kennedy: Kavanaugh is firm that allegation didn't happen," 18 Sep. 2018 That pejorative term generally implies that something is of poor quality, while this video, from its Guitar Hero screen load-ins to its impeccible timing, is well-made, professional, and amazing. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "'The Simpsons' Guitar Hero Turns Steamed Hams Into a Guitar Solo," 2 Nov. 2017 The most thoroughly pejorative of these suffixes is -aster. Melissa Mohr, The Christian Science Monitor, "When good words turn bad," 28 June 2018 There’s something really specific about being a Hoover and the pejorative term that was multigenerationally tethered to economic hard times, misery and antipathy for the struggles of ordinary people. New York Times, "Margaret Hoover and John Avlon on their Post-Partisan Marriage," 11 July 2018 Its critics are right that neoliberalism has multiple meanings and can be used in a way that is more pejorative than precise. Patrick Iber, The New Republic, "How neoliberalism shapes the global economy and limits the power of democracies," 23 Apr. 2018 Further unsettling foreign allies and even Republicans in Congress, the president echoed North Korea’s own pejorative phrases in announcing suspension of the joint exercises with South Korea. David S. Cloud,, "Trump's decision to halt military exercises with South Korea leaves Pentagon and allies nervous," 12 June 2018 In the parlance of the NBA, some might call the latest Detroit Pistons hire a retread, a pejorative that's long on mean and short on patience. Shawn Windsor, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Pistons' Dwane Casey may change assumptions of black coaches," 12 June 2018 But gemologists traffic in precious pearls, and discard the rest with a pejorative classification: calcium-carbonate concretions. Michael Lapointe, The Atlantic, "The Twisted Tale of the World’s Largest Pearl," 11 May 2018

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about pejorative

Listen to Our Podcast about pejorative

Dictionary Entries near pejorative








Statistics for pejorative

Last Updated

19 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for pejorative

The first known use of pejorative was in 1882

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for pejorative



English Language Learners Definition of pejorative

formal : insulting to someone or something : expressing criticism

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on pejorative

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


appealing forcibly to the mind or reason

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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