Definition of retentive in English:

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Pronunciation: /rəˈten(t)iv/


1(Of a person’s memory) having the ability to remember facts and impressions easily.
Example sentences
  • Orwell's strong retentive memory for poetry is also suggested in a 1942 review of the first three of Eliot's Four Quartets.
  • The memory is sometimes so retentive, so serviceable, so obedient; at others, so bewildered and so weak; and at others again, so tyrannical, so beyond control!
  • The book is packed with little gems of wit and wisdom which often have nothing to do with English usage, but which disclose an extraordinarily lively and retentive intelligence, and make the book a pleasure to read.
2(Of a substance) able to absorb and hold moisture.
Example sentences
  • Soils tend to be high in acid with a predominance of clay (25 per cent and more), low in pH, but well drained and moisture retentive.
  • These mixes are light and water retentive, perfect for little seedlings on the go.
  • These mixes are light and water retentive, perfect for little seedlings on the go.
2.1chiefly Medicine Serving to keep something in place.
Example sentences
  • Most children with encopresis have retentive encopresis, meaning that the soiling or seepage results because soft or liquid stool is leaking around firmer stool trapped in the colon.



Example sentences
  • Its method is designed to help you to learn to read more penetratingly and retentively, to think more clearly, to speak and write more articu­lately.
  • He was a widely read man, and read retentively with great speed.


Pronunciation: /rəˈten(t)ivnəs/
Example sentences
  • ‘Progress, far from consisting in change,’ said the Spanish sage, ‘depends on retentiveness.’
  • The conservative philosopher, George Santayana, addressed the danger of the lack of em>retentiveness in response to what Leon Edel, Henry James's biographer, referred to as ‘America's cult of impermanence’.
  • The statement occurs in a discussion of the idea of progress in which Santayana contends that progress is more about retentiveness than about change.


Late Middle English: from Old French retentif, -ive or medieval Latin retentivus, from retent- 'held back', from the verb retinere (see retain).

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: re·ten·tive

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