per·​for·​ma·​tive pər-ˈfȯr-mə-tiv How to pronounce performative (audio)
: 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
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
: determined and reinforced by the repeated performance of socially prescribed acts and behaviors rather than by biological factors
The view that gender is performative sought to show that what we take to be an internal essence of gender is manufactured through a sustained set of acts …Judith Butler
I join scholars who have argued that race is socially constructed and performative, but I keep my eye on what race and racial identity mean to those who are racialized.Allyson Hobbs
grammar : being or relating to an expression (such as a word or statement) that performs the act it specifies or that effects a transaction (see transaction sense 2b)
a performative verb such as promise
performative utterances such as 'thank you' and 'I apologize'
A performative speech act is one that does the act that it describes by the words it uses.Roger W. Shuy
When I say 'I name this ship the Queen Elizabeth' I do not describe the christening ceremony, I actually perform the christening. … Now these kinds of utterance are what we call performative utterances.J. L. Austin
compare constative
performative noun
plural performatives
… legal performatives such as "I sentence you" or "I pronounce you man and wife." Spencer Bokat-Lindell

Examples of performative in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web That unarticulated but ever-present performative slant colors all of Wiseman’s films, presenting a tension with the director’s unobtrusive and very unhurried style of shooting. J. Kim Murphy, Variety, 22 Nov. 2023 That Benjamin has seemed a reclusive mystery since OutKast’s heyday says more about our expectations for the famous, for whom performative oversharing is now part of any new-release cycle, than the choices he’s made. Hua Hsu, The New Yorker, 21 Nov. 2023 The show is a ruthless evisceration of hollow progressive altruism, of performative compassion exercised to make money or seek absolution for other sins. Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter, 7 Nov. 2023 Apparently, Peltz’s performative genius does not always translate into financial results. Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, Fortune, 7 Nov. 2023 But any politician would have been hard-pressed, in 2019, to outdo Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, two of Trump’s closest legislative allies, in performative support. Timothy McLaughlin, The Atlantic, 4 Nov. 2023 It’ a 19-minute-long work that Johnson considers an autobiographical, performative documentary. David L. Coddon, San Diego Union-Tribune, 27 Oct. 2023 Swatches of fuschia, teal, sunburnt orange, and highlighter yellow appeared almost performative in nature. Zachary Schwartz, Vogue, 2 Nov. 2023 There is an undeniably performative element in their philanthropy, rewarded with their names on buildings and schools — the Leslie H. Wexner Building at Harvard, the Lauder Institute of Management and International Studies at Penn, for example. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 18 Oct. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'performative.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


perform + -ative

First Known Use

1922, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of performative was in 1922

Dictionary Entries Near performative

Cite this Entry

“Performative.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Dec. 2023.

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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