Definition of positive in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈpɒzɪtɪv/


1Consisting in or characterized by the presence rather than the absence of distinguishing features.
Example sentences
  • Mitomycin C and cyclophosphamide were used as positive controls in the absence and presence of S9, respectively.
  • Sadly, there may be many cases where we have to make do with the lesser of two evils rather than a positive good, but there is always a choice.
  • Now the dominant trend in radio is to avoid giving listeners a reason to turn off, rather than offering a positive reason to turn on in the first place.
1.1Expressing or implying affirmation, agreement, or permission: the company received a positive response from investors
More example sentences
  • Of course, there were a number of positive responses, from quiet appeals for calm to supportive speeches in the House of Commons.
  • She said the allocation of R500m was a positive affirmation of the role teachers played in the community.
  • Maybe I need some of that positive affirmation, brothers and sisters.
affirmative, favourable, approving, in the affirmative, good, constructive, enthusiastic, supportive, reassuring, encouraging, corroborative
1.2(Of the results of a test or experiment) indicating that a certain substance or condition is present or exists: the positive results of a pregnancy test a positive test for Down’s syndrome
More example sentences
  • Should the test have a positive result, indicating that a condition has been detected, the parents will need counselling and support.
  • The experiment has shown positive results, and presently, the infants are living normally.
  • Incorrect responses on either or both tasks are scored as a positive result, indicating dementia.
showing a reaction, affirmative
1.3(Of a person) having a specified condition, or showing traces of a specified substance in their body: a player had tested positive for cocaine use [in combination]: he is HIV-positive
More example sentences
  • At her next pregnancy the mother will then pass those antibodies against Rh-positive blood to the fetus.
  • In HPV-positive women, not knowing what their results meant was associated with extremely high levels of anxiety.
  • An HIV-positive patient is determined to have progressed to full-blown AIDS when they develop any one of a number of symptoms, diseases or viruses.
2Constructive, optimistic, or confident: there needs to be a positive approach to young offenders adopt a positive outlook on life
More example sentences
  • Exuding confidence and advocating a positive outlook, he has no harsh words for anyone.
  • The meeting appeared to be positive and constructive and we were assured that our views would be taken on board.
  • I have always kept my optimism and my positive approach to life.
constructive, practical, useful, pragmatic, productive, helpful, worthwhile, beneficial, effective, efficacious
optimistic, hopeful, confident, forward-looking, cheerful, sanguine, buoyant, assured
informal upbeat
2.1Showing progress or improvement: the prospects for positive growth in the economy do not look good
More example sentences
  • For our purposes, it's enough to say that lowering inflation has positive growth effects.
  • But feeding back to parish councils or whoever on our progress is a positive step.
  • But science is progressing in a positive manner and countries like India should take advantage of that.
favourable, good, pleasing, welcome, promising, encouraging, heartening, propitious, auspicious
3With no possibility of doubt; definite: he made a positive identification of a glossy ibis
More example sentences
  • You need someone who has the actual expertise to confirm positive identification.
  • I wish I had a more concrete, definite, positive, upbeat answer to give.
  • Where then, Marx asks, is the positive possibility of German freedom to be found?
definite, conclusive, certain, categorical, unequivocal, incontrovertible, indisputable, undeniable, incontestable, unmistakable, unambiguous, indubitable, unquestionable, irrefutable, beyond question, beyond a doubt, absolute, reliable, persuasive, convincing, concrete, tangible, clear, clear-cut, precise, direct, explicit, express, firm, decisive, real, actual
informal as sure as eggs is eggs
3.1Convinced in one’s opinion; certain: ‘You are sure it was the same man?’ ‘Positive!’ said George
More example sentences
  • She hated him, that was very certain and she grew more and more positive of this fact as the next few days passed.
  • Officers had been 99.9 per cent positive it was Jenna because the teenager's ring was found with the body.
  • Eyewitness testimony in court cases - even from witnesses who are absolutely positive about what they saw - should be taken with a grain of salt.
certain, sure, convinced, confident, satisfied, free from doubt, assured, persuaded
3.2 [attributive] informal Downright; complete (used for emphasis): it’s a positive delight to see you
More example sentences
  • Food shopping online is a positive delight compared to a couple of years ago, according to those consumer guardians at Which?
  • I had an Iron Maiden Tshirt, despite having no affinity for the Maiden at all, and, in fact, a positive disdain.
  • Some theologians have a positive genius for cloaking sensible ideas in impenetrable jargon.
utter, complete, sheer, absolute, real, total, perfect, out-and-out, pure, outright, thoroughgoing, thorough, downright, unmitigated, unqualified, consummate, veritable, rank, unalloyed
British informal right, bloody
Australian/New Zealand informal fair
4(Of a quantity) greater than zero.
Example sentences
  • He defines limits of positive variable quantities using ideas that he had used in looking at limits of series.
  • Zero divided by negative or positive numbers is either zero or is expressed as a fraction with zero as numerator and the finite quantity as denominator.
  • He also worked on number theory proving in 1770 that every positive integer is the sum of four squares.
5Containing, producing, or denoting an electric charge opposite to that carried by electrons: each battery has a positive and negative terminal
More example sentences
  • These minerals in their ion state carry either negative or positive charges, much like a car battery.
  • At least one of the positive and negative high voltage power supplies switches between a high state and a low state.
  • Predicted by quantum theory, ghost radiation is a negative energy field that dampens normal positive energy.
6(Of a photographic image) showing lights and shades or colours true to the original.
Example sentences
  • This kind of photograph is a unique positive picture produced on a thin sheet of iron blackened by tar.
  • To his great surprise, when Pia examined his negatives, there was a positive image!
  • In fact, there are two copies of that issue in the bound volumes - one cover features a positive shot, the other a negative one.
7 Grammar Denoting the primary degree of an adjective or adverb, which expresses simple quality without qualification. Contrasted with comparative and superlative.
Example sentences
  • We were studying positive, comparative and superlative adjectives and, as usual, having a pretty hard time with it.
8chiefly Philosophy Dealing only with matters of fact and experience; not speculative or theoretical. Compare with positivism (sense 1).
Example sentences
  • In other words, it attempts to form a positive conception of noumena.
  • There is, furthermore, the second, positive Nietzschean understanding of a necessary distance between the sexes.
  • This revolt, joined to an ascetic and sterile devotion to positive fact, would ultimately slay even God.
9 Astrology Relating to or denoting any of the air or fire signs, considered active in nature.


1A desirable or constructive quality or attribute: take your weaknesses and translate them into positives to manage your way out of recession, accentuate the positive
More example sentences
  • The mid - term evaluation asked students, in an open-ended format, to relate the positives and negatives of each course they are taking that semester.
  • Now we are seeking to further accentuate the positive.
  • Central to the administration's strategy is to pivot the spotlight to the positive.
2A positive photographic image, especially one printed from a negative: the photographic process involves separate runs with the red, green, and blue separation positives
More example sentences
  • In this process I first make a contact interpositive and then an enlarged negative from the contact positive.
  • It has a built-in transparency adapter, so it can scan 35 mm photo negatives and positives (slides).
  • The first test is to determine the correct exposure for a film positive.
3A result of a test or experiment indicating that a certain substance or condition is present or exists: let us look at the distribution of those positives
More example sentences
  • About 1.5x10 plaques were screened and five positives were detected, indicating that the clone was present at 0.003% of the total library.
  • The total of 72 positives out of 2,868 tests conducted on Scottish Division soldiers was the highest proportion of failures of any unit in the army.
  • Treatment would then be offered if tests are positives.
4 [mass noun] The part of an electric circuit that is at a higher electrical potential than another point designated as having zero electrical potential: try linking the signal input directly to positive
5A number greater than zero.
Example sentences
  • Two positives combined will always yield another positive.
6 Grammar An adjective or adverb in the positive degree.



Pronunciation: /ˈpɒzɪtɪvnəs/
Example sentences
  • She says: ‘I believe that the positiveness expected by the citizens of Kenya is not only going to come from the government side, but from themselves, Kenyans, who want to see great changes.’
  • They bring back experiences that they might otherwise have never been exposed to, and they bring back positiveness.
  • Davis posted seven the nine and five from frees, showing more than a noticeable lack of positiveness by his colleagues who were happy to find his reliable clutches rather than shoulder responsibility.


Late Middle English: from Old French positif, -ive or Latin positivus, from posit- 'placed', from the verb ponere. The original sense referred to laws as being formally 'laid down', which gave rise to the sense 'explicitly laid down and admitting no question', hence 'certain'.

  • At the core of positive is the idea of placing something firmly, and the ultimate source is Latin ponere ‘to place’. In the 14th century the English word was used to refer to laws as being formally laid down. From this developed the more general meaning ‘explicitly laid down and admitting no question’ (as in proof positive), and later ‘very sure, convinced’. Position (Late Middle English) comes from the same root, as does postpone (late 15th century) literally ‘place after’. See also compost, post

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: posi|tive

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