Definition of definitive in English:



  • 1(of a conclusion or agreement) done or reached decisively and with authority.

    ‘a definitive decision’
    • ‘This procedure is considered the gold standard for definitive diagnosis of lesions.’
    • ‘People are always spouting off with definitive answers about what design is… except that everyone has a different take on it.’
    • ‘I want this case brought to a definitive conclusion.’
    • ‘It comes as a surprise, then, to learn that many medical studies include too few patients to reach any definitive conclusion.’
    • ‘Patients usually present to their general practitioner but a definitive diagnosis of left ventricular systolic dysfunction can only be achieved by cardiac imaging.’
    • ‘Even then, as Woodruff points out again and again, we can never be assured that we'll reach a definitive end.’
    • ‘In a statement released on Sunday the company confirmed it had reached definitive agreement to sell the company to three private equity groups.’
    • ‘Although the meeting lasted for over three hours, no definitive agreement was reached.’
    • ‘The companies expect to enter into a definitive agreement within 60 days.’
    • ‘If a definitive agreement is signed - one is hoped for by the end of April - Reilly will be named president and CEO of the new company.’
    • ‘We do not believe that definitive conclusions can be reached on so obviously inadequate an evidentiary record.’
    • ‘Histomorphology, therefore, remains as the gold standard for a definitive diagnosis.’
    • ‘He added: ‘It is far too early to reach any definitive conclusions and, in some areas, we may never reach that goal.’’
    • ‘It has found that numerous and serious deficiencies in the paper did not allow it to reach the same definitive conclusions reached by the authors.’
    • ‘The definitive agreement for the acquisition was announced December 8, 2004.’
    • ‘Next year, Delta will receive 11 737-800s and says it has a definitive agreement to sell them.’
    • ‘We expect, and demand, that the authorities do all within their power to put a definitive end to this utterly indefensible action.’
    conclusive, final, ultimate
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    1. 1.1 (of a book or other text) the most authoritative of its kind.
      ‘the definitive biography of Prince Charles’
      • ‘The number of flood defence committees is also to be drastically reduced, scrapping all local committees and establishing a definitive list of regional committees.’
      • ‘I recall well the thrill of finding in a Paris bookshop a definitive biography of the contemporary French king, Louis VII.’
      • ‘Linda Lear is author of the definitive biography of Rachel Carson.’
      • ‘This last species may occur in N. Iraq near the Turkish border but I haven't found any definitive documentation.’
      • ‘There is currently no widely accepted, concise, definitive list of key health education journals.’
      • ‘Written by Teddy Fennelly, the book is deemed to be the definitive text on the co-operative movement in Ireland.’
      • ‘Is that really the tiny study where Noah Webster penned his definitive dictionary?’
      • ‘This is a definitive book on the subject, made all the more collectable by its beautiful presentation.’
      • ‘Although the revelation was complete before the death of Muhammad in 632, the tradition tells us that he did not himself assemble the material into a definitive text.’
      • ‘He published the senior's complete works in a definitive edition.’
      • ‘Despite its noble remit, and the broad range of material which must have been available, this is not a definitive anthology in terms of calibre.’
      • ‘We had a few drinks, threw around a few names and came up with a definitive list of the ten most influential art people in Sydney.’
      • ‘Will this be the definitive list of top ten songs?’
      • ‘Fortunately, this may not be the definitive book on Bill Brandt.’
      • ‘In 1924, he published his definitive volume, The Pipe Book, still an invaluable reference tool for tobacco historians today.’
      • ‘On the Arts and Disciplines of the Liberal Letters was the definitive text for the Middle Ages.’
      • ‘One hopes that this is just the first edition of what will become the definitive textbook in the field.’
      • ‘This immense study was published between 1851 and 1854 and immediately became the definitive text on the subject.’
      • ‘I always planned to write a definitive article about him and never did (which was one reason why, twenty years later, I did the encyclopedia entry on him).’
      • ‘Michael Phillips has written the definitive book on organic apple growing, The Apple Grower.’
      authoritative, exhaustive, most reliable, most complete, most perfect, most scholarly, best, finest, consummate
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  • 2(of a postage stamp) for general use and typically of standard design, not special or commemorative.

    • ‘This review includes definitive and commemorative stamp types with some exceptions.’
    • ‘Everyday stamps are called definitives, and are available continuously, being reprinted as necessary.’
    • ‘There are two types of postage stamps: definitives and commemoratives.’
    • ‘They only printed two billion of these definitive stamps, so hurry up while supplies last!’


  • A definitive postage stamp.

    ‘low-value British definitives simply have a portrait of the reigning monarch’
    • ‘The monarch, flag, maple leaf, and Parliament Building definitives are not included in this study.’
    • ‘In contrast, the second set of definitives, the ‘Five Year Plan Series’, were forward looking and depicted the nation assuming its historical destiny as it sought to reconstruct its greatness through economic modernisation.’


Definitive is often used, rather imprecisely, when definite is actually intended, to mean simply ‘clearly decided’. Although definitive and definite have a clear overlap in meaning, definitive has the additional sense of ‘having an authoritative basis’. Thus, a definitive decision is one which is not only conclusive but also carries the stamp of authority or is a benchmark for the future, while a definite decision is simply one which has been made clearly and is without doubt


Late Middle English: from Old French definitif, -ive, from Latin definitivus, from definit- ‘set within limits’, from the verb definire (see define).