Definition of privative in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈprivədiv/


1(Of an action or state) marked by the absence, removal, or loss of some quality or attribute that is normally present.
Example sentences
  • Evil is merely privative, not absolute: it is like cold, which is the privation of heat.
  • Augustine developed two basic inceptions of evil, the privative and the aesthetic.
  • We could adopt, I suppose, a privative theory of goodness, according to which every good consists in the absence of some corresponding evil.
1.1(Of a statement or term) denoting the absence or loss of an attribute or quality: the wording of the privative clause
More example sentences
  • I do not think you can even grant such an order if the privative clause operates, can you?
  • He suggested that a privative clause expands the jurisdiction of a decision-maker.
  • The privative clause boosts the validity of the decisions made by Refugee Tribunals and by decision-makers in my Department.
1.2 Grammar (Of a particle or affix) expressing absence or negation, for example, the a- (from the alpha privative in Greek), meaning “not,” in atypical.
Example sentences
  • The privative and benefactive suffixes should have vowels (a and e) written with underdots.
  • Has this "a" any connection with the alpha privative of the Indo-European tongues?


A privative attribute, quality, or proposition.
Example sentences
  • But privative terms in their character of privatives admit of no subdivision.
  • Yes, God created every Thing, Augustine insisted, but Evil is not a Thing, it is not a substance, it is a privative, a lack, a failure of the Good.
  • An extended system can he used in the analysis of a number of affixes including privatives.


Late 16th century: from Latin privativus 'denoting privation', from privat- 'deprived' (see privation).

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: pri·va·tive

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.