adjective pu·ta·tive \ ˈpyü-tə-tiv \
|Updated on: 19 Jul 2018

Definition of putative

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



putative was our Word of the Day on 05/05/2012. Hear the podcast!

Examples of putative in a Sentence

  1. This has always been a nation willing to sell out its past for putative progress. —Anna QuindlenNewsweek3 June 2002
  2. The putative champions of liberty took up the cry of dissent only after it had become profitable and safe … —Lewis H. LaphamHarper'sJune 2000
  3. 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 MillerTimebends1987
  4. the putative reason for her dismissal was poor job performance

Recent Examples of putative from the Web

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.

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.

Origin and Etymology of putative

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

PUTATIVE Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of putative for English Language Learners

  • : generally believed to be something

Law Dictionary


adjective pu·ta·tive \ ˈpyü-tə-tiv \

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



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