Definition of comparative in English:



  • 1Measured or judged by estimating the similarity or dissimilarity between one thing and another; relative.

    ‘he returned to the comparative comfort of his own home’
    • ‘One useful comparative measure of economic inequalities is the ratio of the income of the top 10 per cent of households to the poorest 10 per cent of households.’
    • ‘This issue is given more specific attention below in relation to the comparative design.’
    • ‘Avoiding these two biases of company inclusion and time periods, results in comparative estimates of returns that are lower than they would otherwise have been.’
    • ‘They provide comparative indicators of the relative well-being of various socioeconomic groups.’
    • ‘Now that we have the actual contracts, this comparative exercise is relatively straightforward.’
    • ‘Several general practitioners and some service users expressed concern about the impact of the publication of comparative information on the relationship between patients and their doctors.’
    • ‘Dan has also some very good posts up on US-China trade relations and the comparative efficiency of knowledge-based economies.’
    • ‘Thereafter, with Watt's machine and innumerable knock-offs of his invention, copies were made relatively quickly with comparative ease and minimal costs.’
    • ‘At the outbreak of the Revolution in 1917, the family was compelled to leave Russia, and they eventually settled just outside Brussels, where they managed to lead a life of comparative comfort.’
    • ‘Even concepts for completely factual comparative ads were carefully judged by the candidate's sense of fair play.’
    • ‘A new Anglo-Dutch benchmark estimate of comparative per capita income for the early nineteenth century would now be very useful.’
    • ‘But the most recent encounter was back in 1992, and apparently a decade is a long time when it comes to measuring the comparative merits of the Scottish and Canadian squads.’
    • ‘But we trust while no blame is cast on the heroes of the day, there will be no allusion to any attempt to estimate the comparative services of that day in the spirit of a dispute which has lately arisen about it.’
    • ‘The survey, which covers 144 cities, measures the comparative cost of more than 200 items in each location.’
    • ‘What is the estimated comparative risk associated with regular lipstick use, as opposed to using dietary supplements such as bitter orange?’
    • ‘The barge, moored off Langney Point after being towed from Norway, rode out the storm, but turned turtle in the comparative quiet of the next day, dropping all that granite to the seabed.’
    • ‘Other revenue, which includes commissions and fees, was recorded at $162.9 million, which remained relatively flat over the comparative period one year ago.’
    • ‘We do not compile a cumulative box score for each firm because of the comparative nature of consultant-client relationships.’
    • ‘We know relatively little about the comparative effectiveness of different lipid lowering drugs because studies that make direct comparisons of the drugs are uncommon.’
    • ‘Particular attention is required in relation to a comparative view of accounting historiographies.’
    relative, qualified, modified
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  • 2Involving the systematic observation of the similarities or dissimilarities between two or more branches of science or subjects of study.

    ‘comparative religion’
    • ‘However, he was displeased with the quality of teaching, especially in comparative anatomy.’
    • ‘The money was spent to fund comparative studies in foreign countries and consultations with scholars as well as to outline the bills and make them available to the public.’
    • ‘We didn't go out and study comparative religion, right?’
    • ‘She attended the University of California, Berkeley, earning several degrees including a B.A. in comparative literature and an M.F.A. in studio art.’
    • ‘Perhaps the guest columnist for the newspaper is confusing his Saids with his Chomksys, or he sees comparative literature as a branch of linguistics.’
    • ‘He studied English and comparative religion at the West Sussex Institute, followed by teacher training and other postgraduate studies.’
    • ‘This work now involves electron microscopy and comparative molecular biology to estimate relationships.’
    • ‘The other chapters employ different explanatory theories developed in the study of international relations, comparative politics, and public policy.’
    • ‘Let's teach them in a comparative religion class, a social studies class, a philosophy class, but not in science, because mainstream science does not accept alternatives.’
    • ‘I think it's relevant that studies in comparative anatomy and genetics show just the patterns of similarities and differences that would be necessary for evolution to be a viable theory.’
    • ‘And then she's always wanted to study comparative religions at university or train as a counsellor.’
    • ‘Studying comparative religion, he developed an interest in Christian Science and converted.’
    • ‘In this way, he was - whether we agree with his theory or not - perhaps the first developer of what would later be called comparative economic systems analysis.’
    • ‘But if it is, it should be taught as part of a comparative world religions curriculum - not as science.’
    • ‘I majored in both comparative literature and religious studies, which meant that I far exceeded the daily recommended allowance of theory.’
    • ‘Back at Rutgers, he completed all but his dissertation in pursuit of a doctoral degree in comparative literature.’
    • ‘Over the next four years, we also hope to include subjects such as human rights, international environmental law, comparative cultural studies and research methodology.’
    • ‘More recently, they've branched out to studies of comparative acting techniques, such as exploring the hand gestures of Chinese dance.’
    • ‘Religious studies courses in secular schools may be laudable exercises in comparative religion, but they don't provide in-depth textual knowledge or the language tuition, say in Hebrew or Arabic.’
    • ‘The church and more recently the study of comparative religions were of great importance to him.’
  • 3Grammar
    (of an adjective or adverb) expressing a higher degree of a quality, but not the highest possible (e.g. braver; more fiercely).

    Contrasted with positive, superlative
    • ‘What I'm interested in is how the comparative adjective form wronger is pronounced.’
    1. 3.1 (of a clause) involving comparison (e.g. he's not as good as he was).
      • ‘Why didn't he just say so, instead of exposing himself to the Escherian complexities of the comparative construction?’
      • ‘The particle H serves to provide a disjunctive or comparative conjunction between separate ideas or convictions.’
      • ‘As an example, note the following comparative sentences.’
      • ‘The referent of the Mexican postmaster's comparative metaphor is itself left unspoken.’


  • 1A comparative adjective or adverb.

    • ‘As Geoff points out in his book, the/li r/at the end of ‘nuclear’ isn't at all unfamiliar to or difficult for speakers of English: comparatives like pricklier are unproblematic and show no inclination towards being reshaped.’
    • ‘Most common of all the overloaded comparatives and superlatives are ungainly shades of well-known, which display complete ignorance of the good-better-best, bad-worse-worst gradations.’
    • ‘But the trouble is, comparatives don't always need a ‘second part’ introduced by ‘than’.’
    • ‘Whether the adjective is a superlative or a comparative it requires more candidates than the two who have tied at the top.’
    • ‘There is much silliness abroad on the ‘logic’ governing the use of comparatives and superlatives.’
    1. 1.1the comparative The middle degree of comparison.


Late Middle English (in comparative (sense 3 of the adjective)): from Latin comparativus, from comparare ‘to pair, match’ (see compare).