pu·​ta·​tive | \ ˈpyü-tə-tiv How to pronounce putative (audio) \

Definition of putative

1 : commonly accepted or supposed
2 : assumed to exist or to have existed

Other Words from putative

putatively adverb

Putative: Always Before a Noun

Putative is almost always used in front of a noun, the modified noun being that which is assumed or supposed to be. The putative cause of a death, for example, is the one widely believed to have caused it, even when it hasn't been proven or made certain. However, one does not say "the cause was putative."

Did you know?

There's no need to make assumptions about the root behind putative; scholars are quite certain the word comes from Latin putatus, the past participle of the verb putare, which means "to consider" or "to think." Putative has been part of English since the 15th century, and it often shows up in legal contexts. For instance, a "putative marriage" is one that is believed to be legal by at least one of the parties involved. When that trusting person finds out that his or her marriage is not sanctioned by law, other putare derivatives, such as dispute, disreputable, reputed, imputation, and deputy, may come into play.

Examples of putative in a Sentence

This has always been a nation willing to sell out its past for putative progress. — Anna Quindlen, Newsweek, 3 June 2002 The putative champions of liberty took up the cry of dissent only after it had become profitable and safe … — Lewis H. Lapham, Harper's, June 2000 Back in Hollywood in a few weeks, I was discouraged to find yet another putative director wandering about in the Cowan offices, also unpaid. — Arthur Miller, Timebends, 1987 the putative reason for her dismissal was poor job performance
Recent Examples on the Web One way to measure these mores and practices is to count state laws: How many states recognize a putative right and how many try to abridge it? Akhil Reed Amar, WSJ, 13 May 2022 Dealers in NFTs, digital land, promoters of Web3 and pay-to-play crypto games, all have their view of the putative Metaverse and their role in it. Charlie Fink, Forbes, 30 Apr. 2022 That financial advantage means Bayern exists in a different reality from its putative peers. New York Times, 22 Apr. 2022 Zelensky’s putative foes found their own metaphors, too. Washington Post, 12 Apr. 2022 Colin Meyer’s letter to the editor (April 15) dismisses aircraft carriers as useless by puffing up the putative power of Chinese hypersonic missiles. WSJ, 20 Apr. 2022 The solution itself gets lots of putative purchasing attention, but primarily as a proxy for the other big questions. Ed Marsh, Forbes, 18 Apr. 2022 Animals assess putative opponents, spy on others, modify their behaviors when they are watched, form alliances to subdue rivals, and more. Lee Alan Dugatkin, Scientific American, 15 Apr. 2022 The complaint was filed as a putative class action, requiring certification from the court to proceed. New York Times, 1 Feb. 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of putative

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for putative

Middle English, from Late Latin putativus, from Latin putatus, past participle of putare to think

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

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Dictionary Entries Near putative

put a tail on (someone)


putative marriage

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Last Updated

18 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Putative.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/putative. Accessed 22 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for putative


pu·​ta·​tive | \ ˈpyü-tə-tiv How to pronounce putative (audio) \

Legal Definition of putative

: thought, assumed, or alleged to be such or to exist the child's putative father ignorantly entered into a putative marriage before the divorce from a previous spouse was final

Other Words from putative

putatively adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on putative

Nglish: Translation of putative for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of putative for Arabic Speakers


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