Definition of privative in English:


Pronunciation /ˈprivədiv/ /ˈprɪvədɪv/


  • 1(of an action or state) marked by the absence, removal, or loss of some quality or attribute that is normally present.

    ‘Evil is merely privative, not absolute: it is like cold, which is the privation of heat.’
    • ‘Augustine developed two basic inceptions of evil, the privative and the aesthetic.’
    • ‘We could adopt, I suppose, a privative theory of goodness, according to which every good consists in the absence of some corresponding evil.’
    • ‘The good is given many names, amongst them euthymia or cheerfulness, as well as privative terms, e.g. for the absence of fear.’
    • ‘The passage might suggest, however, that privative time is just imaginary.’
    1. 1.1(of a statement or term) denoting the absence or loss of an attribute or quality.
      ‘the wording of the privative clause’
      • ‘I do not think you can even grant such an order if the privative clause operates, can you?’
      • ‘He suggested that a privative clause expands the jurisdiction of a decision-maker.’
      • ‘The privative clause boosts the validity of the decisions made by Refugee Tribunals and by decision-makers in my Department.’
      • ‘That is dependent on the validity of the privative provisions, is it not?’
      • ‘His Honour refers to section 474, your Honour, which was the privative clause.’
    2. 1.2Grammar (of a particle or affix) expressing absence or negation, for example, the a- (from the alpha privative in Greek), meaning “not,” in atypical.
      ‘The privative and benefactive suffixes should have vowels (a and e) written with underdots.’
      • ‘Has this "a" any connection with the alpha privative of the Indo-European tongues?’


  • A privative attribute, quality, or proposition.

    ‘But privative terms in their character of privatives admit of no subdivision.’
    • ‘Yes, God created every Thing, Augustine insisted, but Evil is not a Thing, it is not a substance, it is a privative, a lack, a failure of the Good.’
    • ‘An extended system can he used in the analysis of a number of affixes including privatives.’


Late 16th century from Latin privativus ‘denoting privation’, from privat- ‘deprived’ (see privation).