re·​ten·​tive | \ ri-ˈten-tiv How to pronounce retentive (audio) \

Definition of retentive

: having the power, property, or capacity of retaining soils retentive of moisture especially : retaining knowledge easily a retentive memory

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Other Words from retentive

retentively adverb
retentiveness noun

Examples of retentive in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web For azaleas, that means a little shade, organically enriched, moisture-retentive soil on the acidic side, and a light mulch. Adrian Higgins, Houston Chronicle, "Growers set their sights on developing re-bloomers for the garden," 21 Aug. 2019 For azaleas, that means a little shade, organically enriched, moisture-retentive soil on the acidic side, and a light mulch. Adrian Higgins, Washington Post, "Sunflowers in October? Breeders are racing to develop plants that flower again and again.," 21 Aug. 2019 Many of the large-flowering varieties do well in large containers, just be sure to use a moisture retentive soil mix and/or a self-watering container, and provide a secure trellis. Jean Nick, Good Housekeeping, "How To Grow Clematis," 17 Mar. 2017 The draft and all its component parts represent the NFL at its anal-retentive best. Paul Daugherty,, "Paul Daugherty: Run-up to NFL Draft is about who can lie the best," 23 Apr. 2018 Anal retentive huns popping out all over the place. Ashley Iasimone, Billboard, "Taylor Swift's 'Look What You Made Me Do' Video Tops Adele's Vevo Record," 28 Aug. 2017 If humans could be similarly modified, our corresponding brains might become extraordinarily retentive. Brendan I. Koerner, WIRED, "The Super Power Issue8 Super Powers," 1 Aug. 2003 O’Brien’s librarian is a heartbroken, anal-retentive loner who has a catharsis when someone returns a book that’s 123 years overdue. Pam Kragen,, "One last dispatch from the Fringe: 8 shows close annual festival," 4 July 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'retentive.' 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 retentive

14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for retentive

Middle English retentif, from Anglo-French & Medieval Latin; Anglo-French, from Medieval Latin retentivus, from Latin retentus, past participle of retinēre

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Time Traveler for retentive

Time Traveler

The first known use of retentive was in the 14th century

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Cite this Entry

“Retentive.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 23 January 2020.

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More Definitions for retentive


How to pronounce retentive (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of retentive

formal : having the ability to remember things easily or for a long time


re·​ten·​tive | \ ri-ˈten-tiv How to pronounce retentive (audio) \

Medical Definition of retentive

: tending to retain: as
a : retaining knowledge : having a good memory a retentive mind
b : of, relating to, or being a dental retainer

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More from Merriam-Webster on retentive

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with retentive

Spanish Central: Translation of retentive

Nglish: Translation of retentive for Spanish Speakers

Comments on retentive

What made you want to look up retentive? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


out of the ordinary or unreasonable

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