Synonym Chooser

How is the word passive different from other adjectives like it?

Some common synonyms of passive are idle, inactive, inert, and supine. While all these words mean "not engaged in work or activity," passive implies immobility or lack of normally expected response to an external force or influence and often suggests deliberate submissiveness or self-control.

passive resistance

When might idle be a better fit than passive?

While in some cases nearly identical to passive, idle applies to persons that are not busy or occupied or to their powers or their implements.

workers were idle in the fields

When can inactive be used instead of passive?

Although the words inactive and passive have much in common, inactive applies to anyone or anything not in action or in operation or at work.

on inactive status as an astronaut
inactive accounts

Where would inert be a reasonable alternative to passive?

While the synonyms inert and passive are close in meaning, inert as applied to things implies powerlessness to move or to affect other things; as applied to persons it suggests an inherent or habitual indisposition to activity.

inert ingredients in drugs
an inert citizenry

When is supine a more appropriate choice than passive?

The words supine and passive are synonyms, but do differ in nuance. Specifically, supine applies only to persons and commonly implies abjectness or indolence.

a supine willingness to play the fool

Thesaurus Entries Near passive

Cite this Entry

“Passive.” Thesaurus, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Jul. 2024.

More from Merriam-Webster on passive

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