Definition of prescriptive in English:

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Pronunciation: /prɪˈskrɪptɪv/


1Relating to the imposition or enforcement of a rule or method: these guidelines are not intended to be prescriptive
More example sentences
  • ‘In the past, there were prescriptive rules and lots of checking up,’ Murray said.
  • Ethical obligations are not about prescriptive rules and regulation nor complying with the law.
  • In practice, the so-called multicultural agenda, when it is adopted by the state, turns into a very, very prescriptive and limiting set of choices with all sorts of connotations which I might not like.
dictatorial, authoritarian, tyrannical, despotic;
arbitrary, oppressive, repressive, coercive;
insistent, dogmatic, pontifical;
binding, enforceable;
limiting, narrow, rigid
informal bossy
1.1 Linguistics Attempting to impose rules of correct usage on the users of a language: a prescriptive grammar book Often contrasted with descriptive.
More example sentences
  • He or she probably has the idea that to the extent that prescriptive rules are not followed, the language is somehow deteriorating.
  • Chomsky's goal was not to write a prescriptive grammar book.
  • The lesson here is that you actually need to have a pretty good control of descriptive grammar before you can intelligently engage in prescriptive grammar.
2(Of a right, title, or institution) having become legally established or accepted by long usage or the passage of time: a prescriptive right of way
More example sentences
  • Yet, no one would suggest that by using it the public might acquire prescriptive rights and that the land might become a town green.
  • The wall the vessel is moored to has nothing to do with this matter, and furthermore no prescriptive rights apply.
  • In both cases, the courts completely dismissed the plaintiffs' prescriptive rights arguments.
2.1 archaic Arising from long-standing custom or usage: for her own mother she felt no more than a prescriptive affection



Example sentences
  • And he was generous to many, and offered wise counsel, not prescriptively, but by gentle questioning of your own beliefs.
  • By having the respondents place activities on a scale of acceptability or tolerance, we sidestep the problem of prescriptively defining the meanings of key concepts.
  • Despite his prescriptively nationalistic attitude, and his commitment to the notion that ‘the bush is the heart of Australia’, Stephens himself was cosmopolitan in his literary tastes.


Example sentences
  • To give her her due, the headmistress wasn't too keen on league tables herself and has spoken out against government prescriptiveness.
  • Such prescriptiveness probably reached its peak in regulations for the launch of digital TV.
  • I think the thing that most worried me about this text was its prescriptiveness.


Pronunciation: /prɪˈskrɪptɪvɪz(ə)m/
Example sentences
  • Doing so in the context of oral native language assessment, and characterizing the results as an index of native language ability, enormously privileges the educated classes and recalls the classic critique of prescriptivism.
  • Just as a paradigm of mechanical prescriptivism took hold of the elocutionary movement in the nineteenth century, so too did it pervade instruction in handwriting.
  • To some extent, the presence of phoneticians on the committee ensured that the strict prescriptivism expressed by Reith in 1924 was to some extent mitigated.


noun& adjective
Example sentences
  • All four of these claims have indeed been made by prescriptivists.
  • And more broadly, one problem with many (though not all) prescriptivists' view of the language is that they assume that there's always just one proper rule.
  • Of course, the untrained judgment of whether a response can be corrected may reflect a host of nonlinguistic factors, prescriptivist values and stylistic preferences among them.


Mid 18th century: from late Latin praescriptivus 'relating to a legal exception', from praescript- 'directed in writing', from the verb praescribere (see prescribe).

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: pre|scrip¦tive

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