Definition of discursive in English:



  • 1Digressing from subject to subject.

    ‘students often write dull, second-hand, discursive prose’
    • ‘But first, I will string you along with some largely unnecessary details presented in a rambling, discursive manner, so as to build suspense and fulfill my word quota.’
    • ‘Her answers are discursive; ask her a question and you'd better be prepared for a 10-minute explanation.’
    • ‘Even more commonly the function is a discursive and indecisive meander through various fields of learning for its own sake.’
    • ‘Occasionally, however, the poet rises above his discursive fray long enough to interrogate the nature of the dispute.’
    • ‘Because of this, associative ‘correspondences’ between discursive subjects and incongruent temporal episodes, no matter how unclear, are made possible.’
    • ‘It is a long-winded, discursive discussion about benefits and costs, without any clarity at all.’
    • ‘She is best when her discursive, rambling method strikes something eccentrically sharp and moving; not often in complete poems, though the sustained Lullaby here is a fine exception.’
    rambling, digressive, meandering, wandering, maundering, diffuse, long, lengthy
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    1. 1.1 (of a style of speech or writing) fluent and expansive.
      ‘the short story is concentrated, whereas the novel is discursive’
      • ‘His mother, gradually tells the story of his life in a series of letters - written in elegant, discursive prose - to her now absent husband, Franklin.’
      • ‘He has subsequently been accused of paying too little attention to the plays in performance, in effect of treating them as discursive, almost novelistic, works of literature.’
      • ‘His memoir, in a translation that preserves the author's gorgeous, discursive style and his love of wordplay, is a social history embedded within an autobiography.’
      • ‘There must be some important enabling mechanism for people to be so discursive about things.’
      • ‘A concrete way of doing this is to forsake the practice of writing celebratory catalogues about collectors and their unique collections of Japanese objects for the more daunting task of discursive writing on Japanese art.’
      • ‘The style is discursive, not doctrinal; persuasive, not proclamatory.’
      • ‘His discursive sentences begin, then wander playfully, searching under a rock for an insight or chasing a firefly to some understanding, before finally tying up, always neatly, his original point.’
      • ‘The chapter is thus neatly brought full circle and sets the pattern of the book's discursive style, weaving the threads of memory into the present.’
      • ‘It was a very difficult email to write - an unusual admission for someone like me, who could probably craft a lengthy, discursive or emotional email out of a shopping list.’
      • ‘Good style is honest, because it is consistent in the application of its principles - it aspires to integrity of diction, of discursive attitude.’
      • ‘The implication of the new roles for the language was that creative writers seriously attempted those literary forms which had been neglected earlier, for example drama, short stories and discursive prose.’
      • ‘Instead, he combines an astute perspective on earlier historical and sociological research with a sophisticated apprehension of the discursive dynamics of literary texts.’
      • ‘The richness of imagery and metaphor in the biblical writings, in its narrative, poetry, and more discursive writing, is such that it is bound to lead to readings which draw freely on the experience of the readers.’
      • ‘His monologue, delivered as he perched on the edge of his desk or on a stool, was gentle, discursive and memorized from his own handwritten notes - no cue cards.’
      • ‘But over the past few weeks, I've felt that what I've written has neither provided interesting links, nor has it offered the discursive posts that I know I'm quite capable of doing.’
      • ‘The more lengthy and discursive notes of the original forces give way to a short, punchy, military style, often devoid of emotion.’
      fluent, flowing, fluid, eloquent, articulate, elegant, expansive
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  • 2Relating to discourse or modes of discourse.

    ‘the attempt to transform utterances from one discursive context to another’
    • ‘I slip from the intra-discursive level to the inter-discursive level and begin critiquing the performative discursive mode in which the other person is speaking.’
    • ‘This is the classic entanglement of the discursive with the figurative mode of representation - which may beguile and disturb the writer.’
    • ‘In other words, even though some individuals seemed conflicted, or torn between two incompatible discourses, their discursive practices were not found to be neutral.’
    • ‘Independence movements are associated with working within the system, pushing up against its boundaries, with a discursive discourse to change consciousness.’
    • ‘Although we must be careful with the term postmodern, it would certainly make sense to see the above features in terms of hegemonic strategies, discursive formations, modes of regulation and regimes of accumulation.’
  • 3Philosophy
    archaic Proceeding by argument or reasoning rather than by intuition.

    • ‘Like Socrates, Russell saw philosophy as spoken and conversational, rather than written and discursive.’
    • ‘In intuition, discursive reasoning of data is not singled out as a special phase.’
    • ‘Rather than engaging in discursive reflection on complex theological questions, they prefer to tell stories.’
    • ‘Place may be an immediate, pre-conceptual experience, and its knowledge then is intuitive rather than discursive.’
    • ‘This assumption of a given unacquired intuitive and revelatory source of true judgments transcending discursive reason is both a logical and an empirical imperative.’


Late 16th century: from medieval Latin discursivus, from Latin discurs-, literally ‘gone hastily to and fro’, from the verb discurrere (see discourse).