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 Inside the main hall, Mitteleuropeans stood next to tables covered with metamorphic-rock specimens that evoked the lunar surface, speculating about the putative connections between plants and rocks. Adam Leith Gollner, The New Yorker, "Does Your Wine Really Taste Like Rocks?," 3 May 2021 By backing off on the Houthis, the President could be throwing a bone to their putative sponsors in Tehran, ​the Yemeni government believes. Nic Robertson, Nada Bashir And Charbel Mallo, CNN, "In a fabled desert city, a decisive battle could determine Yemen's fate," 23 Apr. 2021 The putative Mexican influence is often disfigured or devalued beyond recognition. Lauren Collins, The New Yorker, "The Unlikely Rise of the French Tacos," 12 Apr. 2021 That putative boundary between the onscreen love story and the behind-the-scenes drama has traditionally allowed the franchise to avoid talking about its connection to the real world. Shirley Li, The Atlantic, "When the Fantasy of The Bachelor Finally Met Reality," 28 Mar. 2021 Yang delivered an extensive statement, speaking longer than the two minutes allotted by agreement, according to U.S. officials, featuring jibes about the putative weaknesses of American democracy. Joel Gehrke, Washington Examiner, "China demands Biden ditch allies: US not 'qualified’ to speak from position of strength," 19 Mar. 2021 The report will call for further scrutiny of those earliest cases and potential cases—including the putative patient zero and his relatives, according to WHO team members. Jeremy Page, WSJ, "In Hunt for Covid-19 Origin, Patient Zero Points to Second Wuhan Market," 26 Feb. 2021 Some of the costs — like an annual payment of five million euros to Atlético Madrid, a putative rival, for first refusal on any of its players — make little sense. New York Times, "Barcelona and the Crippling Cost of Success," 12 Feb. 2021 Henry was the former governor of New York and the putative head of the Republican Party. Dorothy Wickenden, The New Yorker, "The Pre-Civil War Fight Against White Supremacy," 18 Jan. 2021

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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Last Updated

6 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Putative.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/putative. Accessed 14 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for putative



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

Comments on putative

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