Definition of passive in English:



  • 1Accepting or allowing what happens or what others do, without active response or resistance.

    ‘the women were portrayed as passive victims’
    • ‘Historians are now concerned with resistance in active and passive forms, organised and impromptu, group and individual, male and female, political, economic, and cultural.’
    • ‘Active, not passive, response is called forth as is perseverance over the long haul.’
    • ‘As Hickey noted, peasants have many methods of passive and active resistance, and force is often counterproductive as a motivator.’
    • ‘She asked how it happened that ordinary Salvadorans went from decades of passive acceptance to active insurgency in a short time.’
    • ‘The inhabitants of the colony prove to be neither passive victims nor fierce resistors in some undifferentiated manner.’
    • ‘These crimes of violence continue with the active support or passive complicity of state agents, armed groups, families and communities.’
    • ‘But for many, the availability of therapeutic intervention may facilitate the transition from active worker to passive victim.’
    • ‘Seminal studies in mammals indicated that the threshold at which the shift from an active to a passive behavioral response occurs is subject to great individual variation.’
    • ‘An underacknowledged distinction in studies of legitimacy centers on whether the organization seeks active support or merely passive acquiescence.’
    • ‘The distinction between physically passive and relatively active patients, based on actometry, is helpful to select the correct approach to help the patient.’
    • ‘That is, they have the ability to rationally accept dreadful circumstances without becoming angry or passive, two common responses to extreme stress.’
    • ‘Patients accustomed to inadequate care may become resentful or respond with passive acceptance of the situation often seeing it simply as a further burden of poverty and social alienation.’
    • ‘There is absolute integrity in the distinction between passive consumption and active use, except insofar as ‘use’ of a product signifies its consumption anyway.’
    • ‘Besides primary, secondary, we should also look at - that's a active scene, passive thing, did she put up a fight or she just submit herself.’
    • ‘Ultimately, as you follow this kind of plan, you will gain a passive income that allows you to quit your job, and you become, by definition, financially independent.’
    • ‘He could have remained a passive passenger allowing the constable to deal with the driver or could have insisted Mr Main breath-test Ms Johnstone but did neither.’
    • ‘The passive person allows things to wash over them.’
    • ‘The South African government's passive response to events in Zimbabwe inevitably raises awkward questions about the depth of its own commitment to democracy.’
    • ‘From passive viewing to active buying is just another step.’
    • ‘They seem to prefer a passive response to a quick, aggressive reaction.’
    submissive, acquiescent, unresisting, yielding, unassertive, non-resistant, compliant, complaisant, pliant, resigned, obedient, docile, tractable, malleable, pliable, meek, subdued, deferential, forbearing, long-suffering, patient, lamblike, non-violent, supine
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  • 2Grammar
    Denoting a voice of verbs in which the subject undergoes the action of the verb (e.g. they were killed as opposed to the active form he killed them).

    • ‘But the framers set a grammatical conundrum for us when they put the main clause in the passive voice: ‘shall not be infringed’.’
    • ‘Nominalization is one way to avoid reference to the agent of an action (here, who did the shooting), but it's not the same as using the passive voice.’
    • ‘The general pattern appears to be that the unmarked, active voice acts as a same function category, while the marked, passive voice indicates a switch in function.’
    • ‘As is so often the case, it is the use of the passive voice in the paragraph that leads you into ambiguity and trouble.’
    • ‘Instead, the memo I circulated to the faculty was firmly rooted in the third person and utilized the passive voice.’
    • ‘The Suspension Clause is phrased in the passive voice; it does not say who may suspend the great writ.’
    • ‘The passive voice gives a sense of detached and objective authority that, in contrast to the imperative mode, is expressive of neutrality.’
    • ‘Numerous simple declarative sentences, at times virtually unconnected conceptually, and rampant use of the passive voice make the book difficult to read.’
    • ‘In Hindi, the passive voice is almost standard.’
    • ‘Using the passive voice is always very helpful.’
    • ‘Eventually, I rejected my advisor's advice to write in the passive voice; it surely sounded more scientific, but was far duller.’
    • ‘A foundation narrative often was not about an individual hero, but was told in the passive voice and emphasized the technologies themselves.’
    • ‘Wilson never called a halt to it, but there's a common practice of whenever anything bad is mentioned, it's put in the passive voice as if nobody did it.’
    • ‘The second report lapsed into the passive voice.’
    • ‘In many cases, the headline was also couched in a passive voice.’
    • ‘A handful of misspellings, constant use of the passive voice, and frequent repetitiveness mar the study.’
    • ‘A colleague of mine at AT&T some years ago did an excellent job of expressing the case against the passive voice.’
    • ‘In addition, these content areas require longer, complex phrases and use of the passive voice.’
    • ‘No, you would have to be careful not to put it in a passive voice.’
    • ‘Never use the passive voice in an incitement to action, however vile or reprehensible.’
    • ‘When it was applied to the husband, the translators rendered the verb in an active form; when applied to the woman they rendered it passive.’
  • 3(of a circuit or device) containing no source of electromotive force.

    ‘a passive optical network is to be installed in 2000 homes’
    • ‘As the demand for optical reach continues to increase, passive filters are no longer sufficient, and greater individual wavelength control is required.’
    • ‘Most optical gas sensors are passive, relying on the inherent spectroscopic properties of the gases themselves.’
    • ‘The pipette is simply a passive device that enables the recording, whereas a planar electrode offers the opportunity to further integrate devices on chip.’
    • ‘Of the passive devices, the charcoal canisters and charcoal liquid scintillation detectors are typically used for short-term tests.’
    • ‘Devices range from integrated passive devices and analogue components to power devices, serial EEPROMs and flash memory.’
    • ‘Harmonics may further be controlled by limiting a conductance between gate electrodes and fixed potentials using an active or passive device.’
    • ‘The Ultrasite valve, based on a luer connection, is a passive device that meets government requirements.’
    • ‘The passive antenna elements are coupled to selectable impedance components.’
    • ‘No power is required to maintain the passive optical circuit.’
    • ‘For example, implementing passive filters in a dynamic, changing facility might cause the appearance of resonant flows that arc dangerous and hard to find.’
    • ‘The GPS receiver is a passive device, it does not transmit a signal.’
    • ‘Some of these devices may have features that offer more resistance to test interference or disturbance than other passive devices.’
    • ‘Unfortunately, the mVCR recording tool is passive.’
    • ‘One PP007 500 - MHz passive probe per channel is included with every unit.’
    • ‘Previous experience of PCMBS inhibiting a fraction of the normal unloading efflux suggests that this large, PCMBS-insensitive efflux is by a passive mechanism.’
    • ‘The dangerous missiles were entirely passive, homing in on infrared radiation given out by our aircraft and emitting no signals by which a missile lock could be detected.’
    • ‘‘The electromagnetic field in the ionosphere is masking our passive sensors,’ the officer of the deck said.’
    • ‘I tuned the passive sensors to their highest level.’
    • ‘We have them on passive sensors,’ called Dan, ‘they're offsetting towards us.’’
    • ‘Active termination adds voltage regulators to the resistors used in passive termination, which allow more reliable and consistent termination of the bus.’
    • ‘However, in the attempt to pace up with this evolution, thinner on-chip metals and dielectrics have a troubling effect on the Q factor of on-chip passives.’
    1. 3.1(of radar or a satellite) receiving or reflecting radiation from a transmitter or target rather than generating its own signal.
      ‘passive sensors detect the emissions from enemy radar’
      • ‘System and method for determining the location of a transmitter using passive reflectors or refractors as proxy receivers and using database querying’
      • ‘It can be fired as a long-range standoff missile, or its all-aspect passive radar homing seeker can be used to detect and attack targets of opportunity.’
      • ‘The 82845GV GMCH is just adjacent, and is cooled by a rather small passive heatsink only.’
    2. 3.2(of a heating system) making use of incident sunlight as an energy source.
      ‘bananas can be grown at the highest altitude using passive solar heating alone’
      • ‘A skylight can be an efficient and desirable source of passive solar heating, assuming that you need the heat.’
      • ‘Other systems include integrated wastewater treatment, photovoltaic electrical systems, solar hot water and passive solar heating.’
      • ‘Energy-conscious design may combine conservation methods, such as insulation and thermostat set-back, with passive solar heating.’
      • ‘Most earth homes are concentrated in hot, dry climates and are suited for passive solar heating and cooling in such areas.’
      • ‘Earthen homes are appropriate for a variety of climates and are ideally suited for passive solar heating and cooling.’
      • ‘In winter, the passive system makes use of the buffer zone for cooling and the mechanical system provides heating.’
      • ‘During the 1970s energy crisis, many designers and builders plunged into passive solar home construction.’
      • ‘Through passive solar heating and cooling, the structures will minimize their reliance on fossil fuels.’
      • ‘Clad in mirrored glass over a uniform space frame, the design boasts passive solar heating and wind cooling obtained through operable strips of ventilating windows.’
      • ‘For example one might expect that a glazed cavity like this would be used for passive solar heating or ventilation.’
      • ‘A passive solar hot-water system preheats water for the showers, and a photovoltaic array supplements municipal electricity.’
      • ‘To maximize passive solar heating from the Colorado winter sun, these houses are oriented with their long dimension facing within 30 degrees of south.’
      • ‘The tree can be an important characteristic of passive solar heating, providing early afternoon summer shade, and little effect in winter with the leaves off.’
      • ‘Where am I going to put my house to maximize passive solar heating?’
      • ‘The building makes use of passive solar energy, with heat and cold stored both in the structure and below it.’
      • ‘The cold-sink will never fail, allows the air around the plants to stay heated and uses absolutely free, passive energy.’
      • ‘Several passive cooling systems have been developed and tested.’
      • ‘Space heat is primarily passive solar with a 7 kW central wood fireplace as back-up’
      • ‘They also act as buffer zones, providing valuable passive solar energy gains that help offset the building's overall energy consumption.’
      • ‘The atria act as meeting places for the company's employees, and serve as buffer zones to provide passive solar energy gains.’
  • 4Chemistry
    (of a metal) made unreactive by a thin inert surface layer of oxide.

    • ‘This chromium oxide film is passive and stable, and it seals the base metal from exposure to the atmosphere, thereby precluding further oxidation.’
    • ‘The Nernst equation indicates whether passive K + uptake can be mediated by ion channels or if there is a need for carrier-mediated transport.’
    • ‘I expected that the passive design would require a greater cooling surface area - or at least, metal tubing instead of plastic hoses to provide better thermal dissipation.’
    • ‘Cooling the SiS645 northbridge is a silver, passive heatsink.’


  • 1Grammar
    A passive form of a verb.

    • ‘It was thought to be characterized by a fairly high proportion of such features as subordinate clauses, adjectives, the pronoun I and passives.’
    • ‘With this framework, one can see politeness strategies in regularities of scientific style - such as the use of pronouns and of passives - that are usually explained in terms of conventions.’
    • ‘But readies for does not occur at all, and the six occurrences of readied for are all passives (so they illustrate the transitive verb).’
    • ‘In actuality, only the first two examples are passives.’
    • ‘By the way, they discuss many different kinds of bias on the part of Reuters, not just choice between actives and passives.’
    • ‘This confirms my point here; these passives do not have a passive meaning.’
    • ‘One of the keys to the slant of any newspaper story is seeing which way the unsupported passives go.’
    • ‘Have you ever read something that assiduously avoids all passives and progressives?’
    • ‘Since in the latter the indirect object has become the subject of the sentence, the construction is called the indirect passive.’
    • ‘What about conjoining a passive with an active?’
    • ‘But the whole tension of these two lines focuses on the verb - active, passive or participle?’
    • ‘The question is simply this: do these words give us a true example of a verb that is middle or passive in form but active in meaning?’
    • ‘Choose active or passive verbs for their special effects.’
    • ‘The original was in the active voice, but the ‘when’ clause was in the passive.’
    1. 1.1the passiveThe passive voice.
      • ‘We have already observed that during the time of Hellenistic Greek, the middle voice form was losing ground to the passive.’
      • ‘This often works, but if you are writing in the active mood, the changes to the passive for the circumlocutions can be irksome.’
      • ‘But I really do hate passive voice and buried claims like the plague.’
      • ‘I learned the distinction between the active and passive voice as early as fifth grade.’
      • ‘It followed that findings should be presented in the third person, and in a passive and cautious voice.’
      • ‘Here the verbs are in the present passive: the Christian is being changed.’
      • ‘Further, with all forms except the aorist and future, we are not able to tell whether a verb is middle or passive.’
      • ‘Use active verbs - but don't dismiss the passive.’


Late Middle English (in passive (sense 2 of the adjective), also in the sense ‘(exposed to) suffering, acted on by an external agency’): from Latin passivus, from pass- ‘suffered’, from the verb pati.