retroactive

adjective

ret·​ro·​ac·​tive ˌre-trō-ˈak-tiv How to pronounce retroactive (audio)
: extending in scope or effect to a prior time or to conditions that existed or originated in the past
especially : made effective as of a date prior to enactment, promulgation, or imposition
retroactive tax
retroactively adverb
retroactivity noun

Did you know?

We normally think of time as constantly moving forward. Since retroactive seems to defy time's forward movement, retroactive taxes, laws, and regulations are often seen as particularly obnoxious and unfair. But nobody ever objects to receiving a retroactive raise at work. When we judge historical people and events in terms of present-day morality and attitudes, our retroactive judgments may indicate that we're too impressed with ourselves and ignorant of history.

Example Sentences

They all received a retroactive pay raise. The new tax will be retroactive to January 1.
Recent Examples on the Web Eight other unions have approved their five-year deals with the railroads and are in the process of getting back pay for their workers for the 24% raises that are retroactive to 2020. Josh Funk, Anchorage Daily News, 29 Nov. 2022 Eight other unions have approved their five-year deals with the railroads and are in the process of getting back pay for their workers for the 24% raises that are retroactive to 2020. Josh Funk, ajc, 29 Nov. 2022 Eight other unions have approved their five-year deals with the railroads and are in the process of getting back pay for their workers for the 24% raises that are retroactive to 2020. Josh Funk, Chicago Tribune, 28 Nov. 2022 Eight other unions have approved their five-year deals with the railroads and are in the process of getting back pay for their workers for the 24 percent raises that are retroactive to 2020. Josh Funk, BostonGlobe.com, 28 Nov. 2022 If the local law had been retroactive to July, then parks would have to reimburse tenants who received increases at that time. Tammy Murga, San Diego Union-Tribune, 16 Nov. 2022 Alabama is among a handful of states that abandoned the practice, but the state didn’t make the new law retroactive for those – including Smith - already on death row because of a jury override. al, 17 Nov. 2022 The contract negotiated in September is retroactive to 2019 and runs through 2024. Esther Fung, WSJ, 5 Nov. 2022 Raises for nonelected officials would be retroactive to Aug. 1. Emma Platoff, BostonGlobe.com, 17 Oct. 2022 See More

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

Word History

Etymology

French rétroactif, from Latin retroactus, past participle of retroagere to drive back, reverse, from retro- + agere to drive — more at agent

First Known Use

1611, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of retroactive was in 1611

Dictionary Entries Near retroactive

Cite this Entry

“Retroactive.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/retroactive. Accessed 2 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

retroactive

adjective

ret·​ro·​ac·​tive ˌre-trō-ˈak-tiv How to pronounce retroactive (audio)
: intended to apply or take effect at a date in the past
a retroactive pay raise
retroactively adverb

Medical Definition

retroactive

adjective

ret·​ro·​ac·​tive ˌre-trō-ˈak-tiv How to pronounce retroactive (audio)
: having relation or reference to or efficacy in a prior time
specifically : relating to, caused by, or being obliteration of the results of learning by immediately subsequent activity
retroactive inhibition

Legal Definition

retroactive

adjective

ret·​ro·​ac·​tive ˌre-trō-ˈak-tiv How to pronounce retroactive (audio)
: extending in scope or effect to a prior time or to conditions that existed or originated in the past
especially : made effective as of a date prior to enactment, promulgation, or imposition
a retroactive tax
see also ex post facto law
retroactively adverb
retroactivity noun
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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