pre·​ser·​va·​tive | \ pri-ˈzər-və-tiv How to pronounce preservative (audio) \

Definition of preservative

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: having the power of preserving



Definition of preservative (Entry 2 of 2)

: something that preserves or has the power of preserving specifically : an additive used to protect against decay, discoloration, or spoilage

Examples of preservative in a Sentence

Noun This food does not contain any artificial preservatives. The wood was treated with preservative.
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective However, these benefits are irrelevant today, when many paint companies can easily manufacture a similar and maybe even better preservative effect, especially with the availability of acrylic resins and paint primers. Clarissa Wei, Smithsonian Magazine, "Why Are All Swedish Cottages Painted Red?," 25 Sep. 2020 Lumberyards catering to contractors carry the other kinds, which have significantly more preservative infused into the wood. Jeanne Huber, Washington Post, "Is wood still a viable option for retaining walls, or will it deteriorate quickly?," 17 Aug. 2020 Beginning this month, all Swamp Pops are also preservative-free. Michael Alberty | For The Oregonian/oregonlive, oregonlive, "Authentic Cajun soda company makes its new home in Oregon," 15 Aug. 2020 My guess is that in some hopefully ever-improving version, this 21st century MoMA will work, if only for self-preservative reasons. Holland Cotter, New York Times, "MoMA Reboots With ‘Modernism Plus’," 10 Oct. 2019 Thanks to widespread manufacturing, Irish moss found a whole slew of new applications, such as stabilizing chocolate milk and being combined with ascorbic acid to form a preservative film over frozen foods. Emily Toomey, Smithsonian, "The Most Irish Town in America Was Built on Seaweed," 23 July 2019 For bogs, the acidity has remarkable preservative effects—think bog bodies—and keeps the environment limited to highly specialized species that can tolerate such harsh environments. Lorraine Boissoneault, Smithsonian, "How Humble Moss Healed the Wounds of Thousands in World War I," 28 Apr. 2017 For cut flowers: Fill a clean vase halfway with lukewarm water, and mix in half or the entire preservative bag that comes with your flowers. Betty Cahill, The Denver Post, "Punch List: What to do outdoors in your garden in February, plus tips on seeds," 3 Feb. 2017 Reliably clean water wouldn't arrive until 1842’s opening of the Croton Aqueduct, and thanks to its boiling process and the preservative nature of hops, beer was safer to drink than water until then. Keith Flanagan, USA TODAY, "New York City's beer trail," 27 Apr. 2017 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Thiomersal is a mercury-containing preservative used in some vaccines, such as the multidose flu vaccines. Dr. Keith Roach, oregonlive, "Dear Doctor: I’m extremely allergic to this preservative. Is it in COVID-19 vaccines?," 24 Apr. 2021 An allergist found a reaction to dust mites and a chemical preservative used in some cosmetics and cleaning products called methylisothiazolinone (MIT). New York Times, "Nothing Could Make Her Body Stop Itching. Would It Ever End?," 14 Apr. 2021 Parabens are a common preservative that can potentially disrupt the natural hormones when absorbed through the skin. Sydney Poe,, "The best cheap shampoo," 23 Mar. 2021 Additionally, to help keep your eyes moist throughout the day, Rapoport recommended keeping preservative-free eye lubricating drops next to your computer and using them throughout the day. Zoe Malin, NBC News, "The best blue light blocking glasses are yellow," 9 Apr. 2021 The products contain five simple ingredients and do not require refrigeration, using only lemon juice as a preservative. Meimei Fox, Forbes, "How To Make The Ultimate Vegan Charcuterie Board," 8 Apr. 2021 These eye drops are lubricating and preservative-free and are highly effective with just one drop. Kevin Luna,, "Best over-the-counter allergy medicine," 1 Apr. 2021 Among them, a dead shark floating in a jar of liquid chemical preservative. Meena Thiruvengadam, Travel + Leisure, "The Strangest Things the TSA Confiscated at U.S. Airports in 2020," 25 Feb. 2021 The smoking gun turned out to be related to a chemical called 6PPD, which is essentially a preservative to keep tires from breaking down too quickly. Rosanna Xia, Star Tribune, "Scientists solve mystery of mass coho salmon deaths," 10 Dec. 2020

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


14th century, in the meaning defined above


15th century, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about preservative

Time Traveler for preservative

Time Traveler

The first known use of preservative was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Statistics for preservative

Cite this Entry

“Preservative.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 May. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for preservative



English Language Learners Definition of preservative

: a chemical that is added to food to keep it fresh longer
: a substance that is used on wood to prevent it from decaying


pre·​ser·​va·​tive | \ pri-ˈzər-vət-iv How to pronounce preservative (audio) \

Kids Definition of preservative

: a substance added to food to keep it from spoiling


pre·​ser·​va·​tive | \ pri-ˈzər-vət-iv How to pronounce preservative (audio) \

Medical Definition of preservative

: something that preserves or has the power of preserving specifically : an additive used to protect against decay, discoloration, or spoilage a food preservative

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on preservative

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


Test Your Vocabulary

Star Wars Words Quiz

  • cu jedi training
  • The bounty portion of bounty hunters (such as Boba Fett) comes from a Latin word meaning
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Anagram puzzles meet word search.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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