Definition of expletive in English:


Syllabification: ex·ple·tive
Pronunciation: /ˈeksplitiv


  • 1An oath or swear word.
    More example sentences
    • She let out a long string of oaths and expletives, carefully picking herself up from the floor.
    • Instead of a lesson in experimental theatre, they were bombarded with graphic scenes of violence and a non-stop stream of expletives.
    • The game remained heated, with the sent-off players voicing their unhappiness on the sidelines and adding to a stream of expletives.
  • 1.1 Grammar A word or phrase used to fill out a sentence or a line of verse without adding to the sense.
    More example sentences
    • I think people don't use ‘it’ for exactly that reason Todd - it's so often an expletive or a dummy pronoun that it would get confusing.
    • Finally, both the antecedent of PRO and PRO itself have to be an argument and cannot be an expletive.


Grammar Back to top  
  • (Of a word or phrase) serving to fill out a sentence or line of verse.
    More example sentences
    • Icelandic takes the non-referential property of quasi-argumental null subjects as basic, therefore quasi-argumental null subjects in the language can be interpreted as basically expletive.
    • ‘There’ is used as the subject of an existential sentence in standard English while it is used in most other situations in which a ‘dummy’ or expletive subject is necessary.
    • A-positions are not necessarily assigned a theta role: The subject position may be occupied by an expletive element.


late Middle English (as an adjective): from late Latin expletivus, from explere 'fill out', from ex- 'out' + plere 'fill'. The general noun sense 'word used merely to fill out a sentence' (early 17th century) was applied specifically to an oath or swear word in the early 19th century.

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