per·​mis·​sive | \pər-ˈmi-siv \

Definition of permissive 

1 archaic : granted on sufferance : tolerated

2a : granting or tending to grant permission : tolerant

b : deficient in firmness or control : indulgent, lax

3 : allowing discretion : optional reduced the permissive retirement age from 65 to 62

4 : supporting growth or genetic replication (as of a virus) permissive host cells

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Other Words from permissive

permissively adverb
permissiveness noun

Examples of permissive in a Sentence

Some states have more permissive laws than others.

Recent Examples on the Web

Right-wing pundits used it as a rallying cry, tying it without evidence to the Black Lives Matter movement and blaming permissive policing. Megan Crepeau,, "Last of 4 defendants pleads guilty to beating teen with disability in livestreamed Facebook attack," 12 July 2018 Although amphibious ships are designed to support Marine landings against opposing military forces, they are also used for operations in permissive or benign situations where there are no opposing forces. Kris Osborn, Fox News, "Navy pushes for more amphibious assault ships," 13 July 2018 The response to Friday’s mass shooting was markedly different than after the church attack, which barely moved the needle on the gun control debate in a state with some of the most permissive firearms laws in the country. Washington Post, "Texas governor vows to look at school safety after attack," 18 May 2018 Arizona has some of the most permissive regulations for autonomous car testing, even after tightening them up a bit earlier this month opening the door to fully-autonomous cars without a backup driver on board. Gary Gastelu, Fox News, "After Uber crash, Arizona DOT confirms no changes to self-driving car rules," 20 Mar. 2018 Florida, however, cannot be called the place with the most permissive gun regulations. Richard A. Oppel Jr., New York Times, "In Florida, Extraordinary Obstacles for Changes to Gun Laws," 17 Feb. 2018 The business community and Republicans in the Legislature, including Harris, routinely complain that Louisiana is too permissive of lawsuits. Julia O'donoghue,, "John Bel Edwards vetoes bill meant to help businesses like House GOP chairman's," 5 June 2018 Still, some left-leaning consumer groups criticized the SEC proposal as too permissive. Dave Michaels, WSJ, "SEC Chief Pitches Investors, Brokers to Back Rule Targeting Stockbroker Conflicts," 2 May 2018 Uber also has a center for self-driving car technology in Toronto but hasn't announced any plans to test self-driving cars there There are lots of other states with permissive laws for testing driverless cars, including Florida, Texas, and Nevada. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "Uber wants to test driverless cars in Pittsburgh again—the mayor is pissed," 24 May 2018

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

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for permissive

Middle English permyssyf, from Middle French permissif, from Latin permissus

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Last Updated

7 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for permissive

The first known use of permissive was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for permissive



English Language Learners Definition of permissive

: giving people a lot of freedom or too much freedom to do what they want to do


per·​mis·​sive | \pər-ˈmis-iv \

Medical Definition of permissive 

: supporting growth or genetic replication (as of a virus) permissive temperatures permissive monkey cells



Legal Definition of permissive 

1 : based on or having permission permissive occupancy a permissive user of the vehicle

2 : granting permission or discretion (as to the court) a permissive statute

3 : not compulsory: as

a : allowed or made under a standard, rule, or provision that permits discretion or an option — see also permissive intervention at intervention, permissive presumption at presumption — compare compulsory

b : allowed under modern rules of civil procedure although not arising from the same transaction or occurrence as the one at issue in the original claim a permissive counterclaim — see also permissive joinder at joinder

Other Words from permissive

permissively adverb
permissiveness noun

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Comments on permissive

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


something that serves to warn or remind

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