Definition of expletive in English:


Line breaks: ex|ple¦tive
Pronunciation: /ɪkˈspliːtɪv
, ɛk-/


  • 2 Grammar A word or phrase used to fill out a sentence or a line of verse without adding to the sense.
    More example sentences
    • I think people don't use ‘it’ for exactly that reason Todd - it's so often an expletive or a dummy pronoun that it would get confusing.
    • Finally, both the antecedent of PRO and PRO itself have to be an argument and cannot be an expletive.
    filler, fill-in, stopgap, meaningless word/phrase, redundant word/phrase, superfluous word/phrase, unnecessary word/phrase


Grammar Back to top  
  • (Of a word or phrase) serving to fill out a sentence or line of verse.
    More example sentences
    • Icelandic takes the non-referential property of quasi-argumental null subjects as basic, therefore quasi-argumental null subjects in the language can be interpreted as basically expletive.
    • ‘There’ is used as the subject of an existential sentence in standard English while it is used in most other situations in which a ‘dummy’ or expletive subject is necessary.
    • A-positions are not necessarily assigned a theta role: The subject position may be occupied by an expletive element.


late Middle English (as an adjective): from late Latin expletivus, from explere 'fill out', from ex- 'out' + plere 'fill'. The noun sense 'word used merely to fill out a sentence' (early 17th century) was applied specifically to a swear word in the early 19th century.

More definitions of expletive

Definition of expletive in:

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove ads and access premium resources

Word of the day kerf
Pronunciation: kərf
a slit made by cutting with a saw