pur·​ga·​tive | \ ˈpər-gə-tiv How to pronounce purgative (audio) \

Definition of purgative

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: purging or tending to purge



Definition of purgative (Entry 2 of 2)

: a purging medicine : cathartic

Did you know?

Purgative can be used as a noun as well as an adjective. For centuries, doctors prescribed purgatives—that is, laxatives—for all kinds of ailments, not knowing anything better to do. Physical cleansing has always reminded people of emotional and spiritual cleansing, as expressed in the saying "Cleanliness is next to godliness". So we may say, for example, that confession has a purgative effect on the soul. Some psychologists used to claim that expressing your anger is purgative; but in fact it may generally be no better for your emotional life than taking a laxative, and can sometimes really foul things up.

Examples of purgative in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective By her mid-twenties, Hanawalt had moved to New York and turned her purgative art into a profession. The New Yorker, 15 Aug. 2021 It is believed that one of her purgative acts, on becoming Anna Kavan, was to destroy most of her letters and diaries. Leo Robson, The New Yorker, 23 Mar. 2020 Taking out the trash is like administering a purgative to my house. Washington Post, 28 Oct. 2019 Saline police chief Jerrod Hart said management got a tip from an employee who had been made aware of the brownies’ purgative properties, and after confiscating the offending baked goods, contacted the authorities. Madeleine Aggeler, The Cut, 15 May 2018 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Or merely the tall-tale purgative of a frantic Purgatorian? Tom Nolan, WSJ, 11 June 2021 Blackshirts forced their opponents to drink castor oil and other purgatives, and then sent them home, wrenching with pain and covered in their own feces. Michael Ebner, Slate Magazine, 30 Jan. 2017 The persistent and sickening violence of Detroit could work as a powerful purgative, a corrective medicine for deprogramming those who doubt the reality of police brutality. Josephine Livingstone, New Republic, 8 Aug. 2017 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'purgative.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of purgative


15th century, in the meaning defined above


15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for purgative


Middle English purgatif, from Late Latin purgativus, from Latin purgatus, past participle

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Time Traveler for purgative

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

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Dictionary Entries Near purgative



purgative way

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Cite this Entry

“Purgative.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/purgative. Accessed 19 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for purgative


pur·​ga·​tive | \ ˈpər-gət-iv How to pronounce purgative (audio) \

Medical Definition of purgative

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: purging or tending to purge : cathartic

Other Words from purgative

purgatively adverb



Medical Definition of purgative (Entry 2 of 2)

: a purging medicine : cathartic

More from Merriam-Webster on purgative

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for purgative

Nglish: Translation of purgative for Spanish Speakers


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