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

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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
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Recent Examples on the Web Excited about possibly connecting the neural region to sleep, Laurent’s team traced this putative claustrum’s connections to the rest of the lizard’s brain. Elizabeth Pennisi, Science | AAAS, "The Australian bearded dragon may hold secrets to human sleep," 12 Feb. 2020 The flood of putative new microbes comes from DNA sequencing studies that can isolate a single bacterium, or, at the other extreme, look at all the genetic material in a contained environment such as the human mouth. Jon Cohen, Science | AAAS, "New ‘reverse genomics’ method brings previously hidden bacteria to life," 30 Sep. 2019 Here was the chance to decipher the putative text of the polyptich. Quanta Magazine, "Using Mathematics to Repair a Masterpiece," 29 Sep. 2016 The math for calculating the scale of a putative global climate refugee crisis is a bit fuzzy. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, "The climate crisis Trump ignores the most," 6 Dec. 2019 Regardless the ability to distinguish one-off stellar binaries from AGN assembly lines and other putative production mechanisms for black hole mergers is coming. Charlie Wood, Scientific American, "Black Hole Factories May Hide at Cores of Giant Galaxies," 4 Dec. 2019 Luterman’s argument relies in large part on a putative chasm between the interests of institutional employees, on one hand, and the residents who live there, on the other. John Hirschauer, National Review, "Who Decides Where Pennsylvanians with Disabilities Should Live?," 18 Nov. 2019 Normally with decades-away concepts like this, there's no point even discussing the putative technical specs. Jonathan M. Gitlin, Ars Technica, "Jaguar designed an electric sportscar just for Gran Turismo," 25 Oct. 2019 Its technical committee compiled a damning report in the summer, suggesting that the new acquisitions not only haven’t made a putative first team any stronger but haven’t even strengthened the squad. Jonathan Wilson, SI.com, "Madrid Derby Catches Real, Atletico in Midst of Sorting Out Their Transitions," 27 Sep. 2019

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.

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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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Time Traveler for putative

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for putative

Last Updated

15 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Putative.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/putative. Accessed 24 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for putative


How to pronounce putative (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of putative

formal : generally believed to be something


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

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