Definition of negative in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈnɛɡətɪv/


1Consisting in or characterized by the absence rather than the presence of distinguishing features.
Example sentences
  • The records of her transaction, and loan would have been available and in their absence I draw a negative inference.
1.1Expressing or implying denial, disagreement, or refusal: that, I take it, was a negative answer
More example sentences
  • In Vietnam, for example, a direct refusal or negative answer is considered impolite and crude.
  • Instead they will provide non-verbal clues implying a negative response.
  • If you are wondering whether the combined talent on display can improve the pedestrian material, the answer is indifferently negative.
saying ‘no’, in the negative, rejecting, refusing;
dissenting, dissentient, contrary, anti-, opposing, opposed;
formal gainsaying
rare dissentious
1.2(Of the results of a test or experiment) indicating that a certain substance or condition is not present or does not exist: a negative test result
More example sentences
  • The presence of only a control line on the dipstick indicates a negative test result.
  • If these results are negative, further testing to rule out HCV is indicated.
  • But we know from past tests that labs with substandard methodology were used and therefore the test results were negative for DU.
1.3(Of a person) not having a specified condition or showing traces of a specified substance in their body: all the patients have tested negative for TB [in combination]: he is HIV-negative
More example sentences
  • Her husband, who also has the symptoms, tested negative.
  • She's already tested negative for drugs in a urine sample.
  • Thinking he was negative, Joe infected his boyfriend, whom he met this year.
1.4US informal Denoting a complete lack of something: they were described as having negative vulnerability to water entry
1.5 Grammar & Logic (Of a word, clause, or proposition) stating that something is not the case; expressing negation. Contrasted with affirmative and interrogative.
Example sentences
  • This view arises from the use of the Pali term anatta, which involves the attaching of a negative prefix to the word for self.
  • A deduction with a negative conclusion must have one negative premise.
1.6 [as exclamation] No (usually used in a military context): ‘Any snags, Captain?’ ‘Negative, she’s running like clockwork.’
2(Of a person, attitude, or situation) not desirable or optimistic: the new tax was having a negative effect on car sales not all the news is negative I don’t want to be negative, but I don’t see how we could do it
More example sentences
  • A few comments say our view of the new Alpha roadmap is either hopelessly optimistic, or unfairly negative.
  • A reading of 50 or above on the index means that business executives are more optimistic than negative.
  • I hope that there are more people in the world who have an optimistic view than a negative one.
pessimistic, defeatist, gloomy, gloom-ridden, cynical, bleak, fatalistic, dismissive, anti, antipathetic, uncooperative, obstructive;
unenthusiastic, cool, cold, uninterested, unresponsive, apathetic
harmful, bad, adverse, damaging, detrimental, unfortunate, unfavourable, disadvantageous
3(Of a quantity) less than zero.
Example sentences
  • The Arabs did not know about the advances of the Hindus so they had neither negative quantities nor abbreviations for their unknowns.
  • Brahmagupta attempted to give the rules for arithmetic involving zero and negative numbers in the seventh century.
  • Given that he was building on the knowledge and understanding of Brahmagupta it is not surprising that Bhaskaracharya understood about zero and negative numbers.
3.1Denoting decrease or reversal: the industry suffered negative growth in the 1990s
More example sentences
  • A donkey can avoid bad debts in a climate of strong economic growth, and negative real interest rates.
  • The loss of negative pressure decreased the rate of raw feed going into the mill, thereby having an impact on the amount of material going to the kiln.
  • Real interest rates have been negative since October 2002.
4Containing, producing, or denoting the kind of electric charge carried by electrons.
Example sentences
  • Each electron carries one unit of negative charge, and there is the same number of electrons as protons, so the atom as a whole is electrically neutral.
  • These ions usually carry several negative charges, so that potential barrier for them is expected to be very high.
  • The atom that gains electrons gains a negative charge, becoming an anion.
5(Of a photographic image) showing light and shade or colours reversed from those of the original.
Example sentences
  • Some monk drew a perfect photographic negative image, is that what you want us to believe?
  • The magic of photography takes negative images and can turn them into positive things of beauty, it fits so well with our theme.
  • During the same time, Henry Fox Talbot created negative images using paper soaked in silver chloride and fixed with a salt solution.
6 Astrology Relating to or denoting any of the earth or water signs, considered passive in nature.
Example sentences
  • Any negative matter on the earth would have fallen up billions of years ago, making the earth devoid of any negative matter.
7British (In Parliament) relating to or denoting proposed legislation which will come into force after a specified period unless explicitly rejected in a parliamentary vote.
Example sentences
  • By its decision taken in 1984 the Commission rejected an application for negative clearance and the association appealed.
  • While such legislation is subject to parliamentary scrutiny, it is mostly by negative resolution procedure, so that this scrutiny is rarely rigorous.
  • Once it became possible for the minister to be outvoted, the national parliaments lost even this nominal, negative control over decisions.


1A word or statement that expresses denial, disagreement, or refusal: she replied in the negative
More example sentences
  • The Court answered that question in the negative (with Judge Bauer dissenting).
  • RBC has bitten the bullet, and answered my question in the negative; he thinks he'd still be free, and wouldn't complain.
  • It provides an answer to this question in the negative.
‘no’, refusal, rejection, veto;
dissension, contradiction;
1.1 (usually the negative) A bad or unwelcome quality or aspect of a situation: confidence will not be instilled by harping solely on the negative
More example sentences
  • To dwell on the negative of the situation was pointless, so I sought to find the good.
  • To see and acknowledge the negative in a situation and embrace whatever positive is there - that is the true definition of courage.
  • So if the chap in Gravesend is so negative, all he will see is the negative in others.
1.2 Grammar A word, affix, or phrase expressing negation.
Example sentences
  • Hence the perceived strangeness of They could give a damn, which has no overt negative, but means the same thing as the same phrase with a negative.
  • A penchant for sentences with multiple negatives is one of the things that make jury instructions notoriously hard to understand.
  • Re-reading P G Wodehouse's The Code of the Woosters the other day reminded me of the many words in English which are the negatives of words whose positive forms are now obsolete or rare.
1.3 Logic another term for negation.
2A negative photographic image made on film or specially prepared glass, from which positive prints may be made: photographs and negatives should be supplied for enlargement purposes
More example sentences
  • Up until this point I have been using Kodak film and having my negatives printed off and enlarging and framing them.
  • Sugiura often uses the photogram as a paper negative to print a positive, in which the subject becomes a black silhouette.
  • The photographer then contact prints negatives onto the platinum paper, which means the negative is put into direct contact with the paper as it is exposed by the enlarger.
3A result of a test or experiment indicating that a certain substance or condition is not present or does not exist: the percentage of false negatives generated by a cancer test was of great concern
More example sentences
  • However, you have to trade this off against the effects on people who got false negatives if the test were not biased to produce every possible positive.
  • To account for the possibility of false negatives, a test should be done more than 3 months after exposure.
  • These results demonstrate that false negatives are possible with radiological tests for ovarian carcinoma.
4 [mass noun] The part of an electric circuit that is at a lower electrical potential than another part designated as having zero electrical potential.
Example sentences
  • Welding is done with direct current, electrode negative (straight polarity).
5A number less than zero.
Example sentences
  • Of course the problem which arises when one tries to consider zero and negatives as numbers is how they interact in regard to the operations of arithmetic, addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
  • Notice that negatives were allowed and so were decimal fractions.
  • Instead, you reverse the order of the numbers, subtract, and take the negative.


[with object]
1Refuse to accept; reject: the bill was negatived on second reading by 130 votes to 129
More example sentences
  • After that, the bill was recommitted and my amendment was negatived.
  • It will be seen that the second answer negatives the conclusion of the first, since the Act is concerned with the purpose of the alteration irrespective of whose purpose it is.
  • In Chiredzi North, the judge said that corrupt practices had not been proved, but the widespread violence and intimidation of the electorate negatived the concept of a free election, and she therefore declared the election void.
1.1Prove to be untrue: the insurer’s main arguments were negatived by Lawrence
More example sentences
  • Again it was to prove a fickle promise as Costello negatived it at the other end just five minutes later.
  • However, the trial judge found that the Crown had negatived the defence of self-defence as he found the complainant both credible and reliable and most importantly he found the incident to have occurred as the complainant had outlined.
  • Either aspect of mistake, whether it be mistake as contended for, or as referred to by the trial judge here, or as we would contend for, is something which has to be negatived, if raised, of course.
2Render ineffective; neutralize: should criminal law allow consent to negative what would otherwise be a crime?
More example sentences
  • Where V consents only as a result of D's threats or as a result of fear, this will negative consent.
  • The general rule is thus that consent may negative assault or battery, but not a more serious offence.
  • On the restart Maynooth's Cummins had the opening score when he slotted over a fine point but this was negatived two minutes later when Tullow midfielder Conor Doyle shot over a glorious point from out on the right wing.



Pronunciation: /ˈnɛɡətɪvnəs/
Example sentences
  • Although he has never seen her before, she attracts his gaze because her beauty and vitality seem at odds with ‘the uniform negativeness of expression’ of those around her.
  • Of course there are varying degrees to the extent of negativeness of the experience, and that has a bearing on the level of difficulty a person faces in overcoming homelessness.
  • It restates the negativeness of the universe.


Late Middle English: from late Latin negativus, from negare 'deny' (see negate).

  • Negative comes from Latin negare ‘to deny’, a Middle English word from the same source. The photographic negative dates from the mid 19th century.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: nega|tive

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