Definition of derivative in English:



  • 1Imitative of the work of another artist, writer, etc., and usually disapproved of for that reason.

    ‘an artist who is not in the slightest bit derivative’
    • ‘Part of this attitude is indicative of an anxiety that film might still be regarded as a derivative medium, always in any comparison a poor imitation of literature.’
    • ‘He will release the derivative work as an MP3 single.’
    • ‘I suppose she is a cultural phenomenon that cannot be ignored, but I find her programme, and the derivative imitators to be deadly dull and no substitute for actual thought.’
    • ‘And so I started switching from these endless derivative novels to trying to write parts for actors, and I've been doing so ever since.’
    • ‘This assumption has moreover been used to portray Native American writing as derivative and imitative of Western literary traditions.’
    • ‘This underscores the derivative nature of his performance and this movie.’
    • ‘All art, all thought was a creative activity, not an imitative or derivative one.’
    • ‘For a musical about one the century's most original artists, there was a whole lot of derivative going on.’
    • ‘Moreover, says the performer, that painful experience is what led Shakespeare to become more than a sharp-tongued wit, more than the derivative writers of his era and ours.’
    • ‘Buyers were delighted to have something to sell, but I felt that the show was too derivative, and betrayed a lack of the energy and fire that made him such an entertaining part of our fashion week.’
    • ‘The state-of-the-art animation techniques and the space flight sequences look impressive, but fail to inject any excitement into the lifeless and derivative plot.’
    • ‘They customarily provided a plan or plot summary of the new offering, a convention that made the repetitive and derivative nature of modern playwriting all the more obvious.’
    • ‘The whole album is so fresh and so distantly related to anything that has come out in years that it begs for attention in a sea of Pop Idols, derivative rock/metal and endless amounts of Hip Hop.’
    • ‘Would Fitzgerald have been disappointed by the derivative script grounded in the conventions of the nineteenth-century realist novel?’
    • ‘When you are depressed and isolated anything you write is totally derivative and self-obsessed.’
    • ‘However, he is not a derivative imitator of classic Japanese cinema, but one of its original though sadly neglected film-makers.’
    • ‘Instead, it is a mélange of mainstream-friendly comedy and storytelling on the theme of love - brutally honest and quite funny, if somewhat derivative.’
    • ‘It's equally hard to find good things to say about the meandering plot or the derivative music of the film.’
    • ‘If I take the Grimm stories, and make a new derivative work out of them, I get a new copyright, even though the old work is still in the public domain.’
    • ‘It can play towards the determination of whether the case is a full-on copyright case or whether it is a case of the infringer creating a derivative work.’
    imitative, unoriginal, uninventive, non-innovative, unimaginative, uninspired
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Originating from, based on, or influenced by.
      ‘Darwin's work is derivative of the moral philosophers’
      • ‘With gameplay more derivative of the Harlem Globetrotters than the NBA, players bust insane ankle-breaking moves to confuse and fake out opponents on their way to the hoop.’
      • ‘More derivative software based on the company's code is likely soon.’
      • ‘The curators must exhibit art that clearly demonstrates the relationship between the two schools - which often means showing the modern work that is most derivative of the Spanish example.’
      • ‘I particularly remember a poem which was very derivative of English poetry called ‘Fugue’ by Neville Dawes, a Jamaican novelist and poet.’
      • ‘In 1913 he was overwhelmed by the European modernism exhibited at the Armory Show and his style entered an eclectic, derivative phase, influenced by Gauguin, Matisse, and van Gogh.’
  • 2Finance
    attributive (of a product) having a value deriving from an underlying variable asset.

    ‘equity-based derivative products’
    • ‘These include equities, bonds, currencies and more complex derivative products such as futures and option products.’
    • ‘Given recent developments in calculation and derivative products, new opportunities are now available in portfolio construction and trading.’
    • ‘Foreign banks have a more sophisticated system for evaluating and pricing credit risks associated with derivative products.’
    • ‘It is possible to use unrealized gains in financial assets (including derivative contracts) as collateral for further purchases.’
    • ‘This is because they buy complex derivative products to mirror the performance of the underlying stock market index or indices which are not transparently priced.’


  • 1Something which is based on another source.

    ‘the aircraft is a derivative of the Falcon 20G’
    • ‘The modern territorial state upon which it was based was a derivative of the Italian Renaissance and the Protestant Reformation.’
    • ‘What it does require is a willingness to use derivatives or maintain a short interest, and these, of course, are verboten, because so many people can't be bothered to understand such things.’
    • ‘International trade include import, export and re-export of live and animal trophies, plants and parts and derivatives thereof, based on a permit certification system.’
    • ‘The scope of this bibliography is limited to studies on Shakespeare television adaptations and derivatives and does not include musical versions or operas based on the plays.’
    • ‘Thus, the holders of Barrie's copyright claim a perpetual right to control derivative works based on Peter Pan, even though the original work passed into the public domain.’
    • ‘He related the ornament, as we do today to the art of such insular manuscripts as the Book of Kells and the Book of Durrow; indeed, he saw Pictish art as derivative from these sources.’
    • ‘This includes promises that school meals will not contain foods labelled as containing GM ingredients and that prepackaged foods known to contain GM derivatives will not be sold.’
    • ‘And many people obviously rely on the good old Swiss Army knife or one of its derivatives for everything from trimming nails and opening bottles to putting in screws and whittling firesticks.’
    • ‘Permit others to copy, distribute, display, and perform the work and derivative works based upon it only for noncommercial purposes.’
    • ‘A copyleft is a copyright notice on a piece of software that permits unrestricted redistribution and modification, provided that all copies and derivatives retain the same permissions.’
    • ‘The hull is a new design rather than a derivative of an older system.’
    • ‘The importance of scrutinizing food labels to determine sources of eggs, egg derivatives, and egg substitutes can't be stressed enough.’
    • ‘Because of the complexity of these derivatives, we chose to analyze the different sources of variation involved in the likelihood separately.’
    • ‘These products, legally acceptable as chocolate in other EU countries, are defined in Italy as ‘chocolate derivatives.’’
    by-product, spin-off, offshoot, subsidiary product
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 A word derived from another or from a root in the same or another language.
      ‘‘fly-tip’ is a derivative of the phrase ‘on the fly’’
      • ‘Morphological words for which the feminine form revealed the silent consonant ending were spelled more easily than morphological words for which the derivatives were other nouns or verbs.’
      • ‘And you could write down just as many derivatives of any other root: fish, or coffee, or excrement.’
      • ‘And they were our distant brothers and not unlike the Romance languages that you know, the Italians and the Spaniards and the French all come from a Latin derivative or Latin root.’
      • ‘Their last names are both easily understood derivatives of verbs that became professional designations.’
      • ‘The word ‘sex’ and its derivatives were not used in our sense then.’
      • ‘The word nucleus is a derivative of the Latin word nux, meaning nut or kernel.’
      • ‘They called the wine tintashu, combining the Japanese word for sake with a derivative of the Portuguese word for red.’
      • ‘For English, such forms are usually those of INDO-EUROPEAN ROOTS and their derivatives, or Romanic and Germanic roots.’
      • ‘Every barbarian language had an equivalent term, and all of them were based on a derivative of that language's word for fury.’
      • ‘He uses derivatives of the word ‘mesmerise’ in too many places.’
      • ‘However, contemporaries now subscribe to the notion that the term brioche is a derivative of the Norman word for pound, broyer.’
      • ‘The name of the plant descends from Old English rapum ‘turnip’, while the crime is a derivative of the Latin verb rapere ‘to seize’.’
      • ‘Her name was a derivative of the French word for ‘friend’.’
      • ‘All the words for actual (kinds of) snow have been removed, and I'm ignoring the extensive polysemy of snow and many of its derivatives.’
      • ‘Because, even as a kid, I was fascinated by the way people expressed themselves, it wasn't long before I came across a London derivative of London back-slang.’
      • ‘It is a derivative of the verb sozo, which means ‘to heal.’’
      • ‘In the Greek-Latin languages and their derivatives we find this same root appearing as super, sphere, spore and spirit to mention just a few that are relevant to the subject at hand.’
      • ‘While primarily a place for the administration of justice, its name is a derivative of the Latin root officium and it is considered a landmark in the evolution of the office as a building type.’
      • ‘Plagiarism - a derivative of the Latin word for kidnapping - literally means to steal someone else's words or ideas and take credit for them.’
      • ‘The term tempura is a derivative of the Portuguese tempuras, meaning Friday, the day on which Christians were forbidden to consume meat.’
      derived word, descendant
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2 A substance that is derived chemically from a specified compound.
      ‘crack is a highly addictive cocaine derivative’
      • ‘The principal UVB absorbers are para-aminobenzoic acid derivatives, salicylates, cinnamates and camphor derivatives and microfine titanium dioxide.’
      • ‘Moricizine is a phenothiazine derivative, without significant activity on the dopaminergic system.’
      • ‘For example, the alcohol derivative of methane is methanol and of ethane is ethanol.’
      • ‘Industrially, phosphoric acid and its derivatives are used in metal cleaning and treatment.’
      • ‘For example, methyl butyrate, a derivative of butyric acid, smells like apples.’
      by-product, spin-off, offshoot, subsidiary product
      View synonyms
  • 2often derivativesFinance
    An arrangement or product (such as a future, option, or warrant) whose value derives from and is dependent on the value of an underlying asset, such as a commodity, currency, or security.

    as modifier ‘the derivatives market’
    • ‘So far, doubts have centred on dealings in shares and derivatives that are based on movements in share prices.’
    • ‘As markets move, as interest rates rise and fall, as currencies move in value against each other, the fair values of these financial assets and derivatives can change dramatically.’
    • ‘Futures and options are derivatives because their value depends on the price of the underlying asset, be it a commodity, investment or index.’
    • ‘Hedge fund managers also invest in derivatives, options, futures and other exotic or sophisticated securities.’
    • ‘There will probably be more legislation to regulate the derivatives market in the future.’
  • 3Mathematics
    An expression representing the rate of change of a function with respect to an independent variable.

    • ‘These include singular solutions to differential equations, a change of variables formula, and a way of relating the derivative of a function to the derivative of the inverse function.’
    • ‘He undertook a large-scale work on generalised differential equations in functional derivatives.’
    • ‘He found the standard addition formulas for hyperbolic functions, their derivatives and their relation to the exponential function.’
    • ‘The first general rule allows us to calculate the derivative of two functions which have been added together.’
    • ‘The following applet, for example, helps observe the relations between a function and its derivative and integral with not a single formula involved.’


Late Middle English (in the adjective sense ‘having the power to draw off’, and in the noun sense ‘a word derived from another’): from French dérivatif, -ive, from Latin derivativus, from derivare (see derive).