per·​for·​ma·​tive | \ pər-ˈfȯr-mə-tiv How to pronounce performative (audio) , pə- \

Definition of performative

1 : being or relating to an expression that serves to effect a transaction or that constitutes the performance of the specified act by virtue of its utterance a performative verb such as promise — compare constative
2 : relating to or marked by public, often artistic performance … comes across as funny, sharp and unfiltered, with a broad performative streak.— Meredith Blake The secret … behind a magic trick is normally quite simple, but it's the magician's performative flair and masterly execution that makes it come to life.— Ian Frisch For me, this changed the atmosphere of the night from performative to meditative, from a concert to a private memorial service.— Catherine Womack
3 disapproving : made or done for show (as to bolster one's own image or make a positive impression on others) But when expressing outrage is as easy as posting a hashtag, a meme, or an empty black square, there's a question of whether that outrage is genuine or performative.— Alia E. Dastigir … a large part of the discussion surrounding the movement's focus is on actually doing the work, rather than just keeping it a performative symbol of allyship.— Kara Nesvig Without black executives, anti-racism signaling is merely performative.— Charles Chamberlayne

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Other Words from performative

performative noun

Examples of performative in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web This is a performative and useless move by Dem Leadership. Elizabeth Thompson, Dallas News, "Gohmert fined $5,000 for walking around metal detector at U.S. House," 5 Feb. 2021 The real question is: How can your colleagues develop healthier relationships to food and their bodies and stop espousing the fat-phobic, performative rhetoric women often engage in when eating food around one another? Roxane Gay, New York Times, "My New Job Did a Salary Bait and Switch, and I Want Out," 5 Feb. 2021 Fundraising pressures and procedural log-jams give House lawmakers, especially newer ones, a strong incentive to raise their national profile through performative gestures instead of by drafting and passing legislation. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "Everyone Wins If the Republicans Banish Marjorie Taylor Greene—Including Her," 3 Feb. 2021 Seemingly good intentions get warped into performative reactions. Aric Jenkins, Fortune, "Constantly talking isn’t necessarily communicating," 30 Jan. 2021 Federalist co-founder Sean Davis went further, arguing that Tapper's previous support for veterans was performative. Carly Roman, Washington Examiner, "Veteran Brian Mast reminds Jake Tapper he 'lost two legs' for his free speech after criticism," 14 Jan. 2021 The people did not accept symbolic words, performative gestures and lies by the status quo. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Commentary: In 2020, some San Diegans stood in the way of real social justice progress," 31 Dec. 2020 The path to sustained power instead lies through symbolic, performative efforts like high-profile hearings or social-media virality that please donors and fire up partisan blocs of voters. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "Congress Is the Problem Child of American Democracy," 23 Dec. 2020 Considering the racial unrest that has come with this year, along with the accessible nature of a 100th anniversary, the act itself seems a bit performative. Shelby Stewart, Chron, "The Negro League is major, and has been for a long time," 17 Dec. 2020

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

1922, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Time Traveler for performative

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The first known use of performative was in 1922

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Last Updated

21 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Performative.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Feb. 2021.

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