Definition of descriptive in English:

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Pronunciation: /dɪˈskrɪptɪv/


1Serving or seeking to describe: the text contains some good descriptive passages
More example sentences
  • This book is primarily a descriptive work, seeking to provide detail about a specific historical missionary activity.
  • I didn't find the plot particularly gripping, but the level of period detail in the book's descriptive passages was excellent.
  • The descriptive passages when she has tea with friends, or tends her garden, or shops for blouses to fit her ample bosom are a pleasure and add a completeness to the character.
illustrative, expressive, pictorial, depictive, graphic, picturesque, vivid, striking;
explanatory, elucidatory, explicative, exegetic, expository;
detailed, lively, circumstantial
1.1 Grammar (Of an adjective) assigning a quality rather than restricting the application of the expression modified, e.g. blue as distinct from few.
Example sentences
  • Freud recognized that the term ‘unconscious’ was better used as a descriptive adjective rather than as a topographical noun.
  • Sometimes the descriptive noun phrase has already been used in a previous clause, and to avoid repetition, the anaphor such is substituted.
  • ‘Vibrant’ is actually one of the rare descriptive adjectives which I have never turned into an adverb.
2Describing or classifying in an objective and non-judgemental way.
Example sentences
  • The qualifying examinations were never objective, but descriptive.
  • Facts (the objective) are descriptive, where events (the exemplary) partake in a process.
  • The medical record, as a legal document, must contain factual, objective, descriptive data.
2.1 Linguistics Denoting or relating to an approach to language analysis that describes accents, forms, structures, and usage without making value judgements. Often contrasted with prescriptive.
Example sentences
  • There have been a number of 20c scholarly grammars of English characterized by a decidedly descriptive approach and a focus on syntax.
  • The main argument concerns the relationship between syntactic, textual, and ideological analysis, and the descriptive methods required in text analysis.
  • Such an analytic and descriptive approach has many advantages.



Pronunciation: /dɪˈskrɪptɪvli/
Example sentences
  • ‘Privatization’ is both descriptively appropriate for the policy in question and it has been the accepted term embraced by both sides of the debate for roughly a quarter century.
  • I will pick ten of the best questions, list them on a post and answer them as descriptively and authoritatively as I can.
  • Responses were analyzed descriptively, using measures of frequency distribution, central tendency, and dispersion.


Example sentences
  • ‘I remember everything about growing up,’ she says, and it shows in her novel's lush descriptiveness.
  • The teachers read them and would award extra marks for descriptiveness, inventiveness and illustration.
  • Papers didn't always live up to the grand claims of the opening plenary and the odd presentation lapsed into the kind of mundane and myopic descriptiveness that has given close analysis such a bad run in the recent past.


Mid 18th century: from late Latin descriptivus, from descript- 'written down', from the verb describere (see describe).

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: de|scrip|tive

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