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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘A new Anglo-Dutch benchmark estimate of comparative per capita income for the early nineteenth century would now be very useful.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘We do not compile a cumulative box score for each firm because of the comparative nature of consultant-client relationships.’
    • ‘This issue is given more specific attention below in relation to the comparative design.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘They provide comparative indicators of the relative well-being of various socioeconomic groups.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Other revenue, which includes commissions and fees, was recorded at $162.9 million, which remained relatively flat over the comparative period one year ago.’
    • ‘Thereafter, with Watt's machine and innumerable knock-offs of his invention, copies were made relatively quickly with comparative ease and minimal costs.’
    • ‘The survey, which covers 144 cities, measures the comparative cost of more than 200 items in each location.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Now that we have the actual contracts, this comparative exercise is relatively straightforward.’
    • ‘Dan has also some very good posts up on US-China trade relations and the comparative efficiency of knowledge-based economies.’
    • ‘Even concepts for completely factual comparative ads were carefully judged by the candidate's sense of fair play.’
    • ‘We know relatively little about the comparative effectiveness of different lipid lowering drugs because studies that make direct comparisons of the drugs are uncommon.’
    • ‘What is the estimated comparative risk associated with regular lipstick use, as opposed to using dietary supplements such as bitter orange?’
    • ‘Particular attention is required in relation to a comparative view of accounting historiographies.’
    relative, qualified, modified
    by comparison, in comparison
    View synonyms
  • 2Involving the systematic observation of the similarities or dissimilarities between two or more branches of science or subjects of study.

    ‘comparative religion’
    • ‘More recently, they've branched out to studies of comparative acting techniques, such as exploring the hand gestures of Chinese dance.’
    • ‘Perhaps the guest columnist for the newspaper is confusing his Saids with his Chomksys, or he sees comparative literature as a branch of linguistics.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Studying comparative religion, he developed an interest in Christian Science and converted.’
    • ‘But if it is, it should be taught as part of a comparative world religions curriculum - not as science.’
    • ‘The church and more recently the study of comparative religions were of great importance to him.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘And then she's always wanted to study comparative religions at university or train as a counsellor.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘We didn't go out and study comparative religion, right?’
    • ‘Over the next four years, we also hope to include subjects such as human rights, international environmental law, comparative cultural studies and research methodology.’
    • ‘Back at Rutgers, he completed all but his dissertation in pursuit of a doctoral degree in comparative literature.’
    • ‘This work now involves electron microscopy and comparative molecular biology to estimate relationships.’
    • ‘He studied English and comparative religion at the West Sussex Institute, followed by teacher training and other postgraduate studies.’
    • ‘The other chapters employ different explanatory theories developed in the study of international relations, comparative politics, and public policy.’
    • ‘I majored in both comparative literature and religious studies, which meant that I far exceeded the daily recommended allowance of theory.’
  • 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).
      • ‘As an example, note the following comparative sentences.’
      • ‘Why didn't he just say so, instead of exposing himself to the Escherian complexities of the comparative construction?’
      • ‘The referent of the Mexican postmaster's comparative metaphor is itself left unspoken.’
      • ‘The particle H serves to provide a disjunctive or comparative conjunction between separate ideas or convictions.’


  • 1A comparative adjective or adverb.

    • ‘There is much silliness abroad on the ‘logic’ governing the use of comparatives and superlatives.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Whether the adjective is a superlative or a comparative it requires more candidates than the two who have tied at the top.’
    • ‘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’.’
    1. 1.1The middle degree of comparison.


Late Middle English (in comparative): from Latin comparativus, from comparare to pair, match (see compare).