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

Definition of expletive in English:


1An oath or swear word: he was greeted by a stream of expletives
More example sentences
  • She let out a long string of oaths and expletives, carefully picking herself up from the floor.
  • Instead of a lesson in experimental theatre, they were bombarded with graphic scenes of violence and a non-stop stream of expletives.
  • The game remained heated, with the sent-off players voicing their unhappiness on the sidelines and adding to a stream of expletives.
2 Grammar A word or phrase used to fill out a sentence or a line of verse without adding to the sense.
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.
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.

Definition of expletive in:

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