Definition of passive in English:



  • 1Accepting or allowing what happens or what others do, without active response or resistance.

    ‘the women were portrayed as passive victims’
    • ‘He could have remained a passive passenger allowing the constable to deal with the driver or could have insisted Mr Main breath-test Ms Johnstone but did neither.’
    • ‘The distinction between physically passive and relatively active patients, based on actometry, is helpful to select the correct approach to help the patient.’
    • ‘The passive person allows things to wash over them.’
    • ‘Active, not passive, response is called forth as is perseverance over the long haul.’
    • ‘Seminal studies in mammals indicated that the threshold at which the shift from an active to a passive behavioral response occurs is subject to great individual variation.’
    • ‘As Hickey noted, peasants have many methods of passive and active resistance, and force is often counterproductive as a motivator.’
    • ‘She asked how it happened that ordinary Salvadorans went from decades of passive acceptance to active insurgency in a short time.’
    • ‘There is absolute integrity in the distinction between passive consumption and active use, except insofar as ‘use’ of a product signifies its consumption anyway.’
    • ‘Patients accustomed to inadequate care may become resentful or respond with passive acceptance of the situation often seeing it simply as a further burden of poverty and social alienation.’
    • ‘From passive viewing to active buying is just another step.’
    • ‘Besides primary, secondary, we should also look at - that's a active scene, passive thing, did she put up a fight or she just submit herself.’
    • ‘They seem to prefer a passive response to a quick, aggressive reaction.’
    • ‘That is, they have the ability to rationally accept dreadful circumstances without becoming angry or passive, two common responses to extreme stress.’
    • ‘An underacknowledged distinction in studies of legitimacy centers on whether the organization seeks active support or merely passive acquiescence.’
    • ‘The South African government's passive response to events in Zimbabwe inevitably raises awkward questions about the depth of its own commitment to democracy.’
    • ‘Ultimately, as you follow this kind of plan, you will gain a passive income that allows you to quit your job, and you become, by definition, financially independent.’
    • ‘Historians are now concerned with resistance in active and passive forms, organised and impromptu, group and individual, male and female, political, economic, and cultural.’
    • ‘The inhabitants of the colony prove to be neither passive victims nor fierce resistors in some undifferentiated manner.’
    • ‘But for many, the availability of therapeutic intervention may facilitate the transition from active worker to passive victim.’
    • ‘These crimes of violence continue with the active support or passive complicity of state agents, armed groups, families and communities.’
    submissive, acquiescent, unresisting, yielding, unassertive, non-resistant, compliant, complaisant, pliant, resigned, obedient, docile, tractable, malleable, pliable, meek, subdued, deferential, forbearing, long-suffering, patient, lamblike, non-violent, supine
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  • 2Grammar
    Denoting a voice of verbs in which the subject undergoes the action of the verb (e.g. they were killed as opposed to the active form he killed them).

    The opposite of active
    • ‘The second report lapsed into the passive voice.’
    • ‘In many cases, the headline was also couched in a passive voice.’
    • ‘Never use the passive voice in an incitement to action, however vile or reprehensible.’
    • ‘Eventually, I rejected my advisor's advice to write in the passive voice; it surely sounded more scientific, but was far duller.’
    • ‘The general pattern appears to be that the unmarked, active voice acts as a same function category, while the marked, passive voice indicates a switch in function.’
    • ‘Instead, the memo I circulated to the faculty was firmly rooted in the third person and utilized the passive voice.’
    • ‘Numerous simple declarative sentences, at times virtually unconnected conceptually, and rampant use of the passive voice make the book difficult to read.’
    • ‘When it was applied to the husband, the translators rendered the verb in an active form; when applied to the woman they rendered it passive.’
    • ‘Wilson never called a halt to it, but there's a common practice of whenever anything bad is mentioned, it's put in the passive voice as if nobody did it.’
    • ‘No, you would have to be careful not to put it in a passive voice.’
    • ‘In addition, these content areas require longer, complex phrases and use of the passive voice.’
    • ‘A foundation narrative often was not about an individual hero, but was told in the passive voice and emphasized the technologies themselves.’
    • ‘Nominalization is one way to avoid reference to the agent of an action (here, who did the shooting), but it's not the same as using the passive voice.’
    • ‘Using the passive voice is always very helpful.’
    • ‘A colleague of mine at AT&T some years ago did an excellent job of expressing the case against the passive voice.’
    • ‘But the framers set a grammatical conundrum for us when they put the main clause in the passive voice: ‘shall not be infringed’.’
    • ‘As is so often the case, it is the use of the passive voice in the paragraph that leads you into ambiguity and trouble.’
    • ‘The passive voice gives a sense of detached and objective authority that, in contrast to the imperative mode, is expressive of neutrality.’
    • ‘In Hindi, the passive voice is almost standard.’
    • ‘A handful of misspellings, constant use of the passive voice, and frequent repetitiveness mar the study.’
    • ‘The Suspension Clause is phrased in the passive voice; it does not say who may suspend the great writ.’
  • 3(of a circuit or device) containing no source of electromotive force.

    ‘a passive optical network is to be installed in 2000 homes’
    • ‘The passive antenna elements are coupled to selectable impedance components.’
    • ‘However, in the attempt to pace up with this evolution, thinner on-chip metals and dielectrics have a troubling effect on the Q factor of on-chip passives.’
    • ‘Harmonics may further be controlled by limiting a conductance between gate electrodes and fixed potentials using an active or passive device.’
    • ‘For example, implementing passive filters in a dynamic, changing facility might cause the appearance of resonant flows that arc dangerous and hard to find.’
    • ‘The pipette is simply a passive device that enables the recording, whereas a planar electrode offers the opportunity to further integrate devices on chip.’
    • ‘‘The electromagnetic field in the ionosphere is masking our passive sensors,’ the officer of the deck said.’
    • ‘Unfortunately, the mVCR recording tool is passive.’
    • ‘Some of these devices may have features that offer more resistance to test interference or disturbance than other passive devices.’
    • ‘I tuned the passive sensors to their highest level.’
    • ‘Most optical gas sensors are passive, relying on the inherent spectroscopic properties of the gases themselves.’
    • ‘The GPS receiver is a passive device, it does not transmit a signal.’
    • ‘Devices range from integrated passive devices and analogue components to power devices, serial EEPROMs and flash memory.’
    • ‘Of the passive devices, the charcoal canisters and charcoal liquid scintillation detectors are typically used for short-term tests.’
    • ‘As the demand for optical reach continues to increase, passive filters are no longer sufficient, and greater individual wavelength control is required.’
    • ‘One PP007 500 - MHz passive probe per channel is included with every unit.’
    • ‘The dangerous missiles were entirely passive, homing in on infrared radiation given out by our aircraft and emitting no signals by which a missile lock could be detected.’
    • ‘Previous experience of PCMBS inhibiting a fraction of the normal unloading efflux suggests that this large, PCMBS-insensitive efflux is by a passive mechanism.’
    • ‘We have them on passive sensors,’ called Dan, ‘they're offsetting towards us.’’
    • ‘No power is required to maintain the passive optical circuit.’
    • ‘Active termination adds voltage regulators to the resistors used in passive termination, which allow more reliable and consistent termination of the bus.’
    • ‘The Ultrasite valve, based on a luer connection, is a passive device that meets government requirements.’
    1. 3.1(of radar or a satellite) receiving or reflecting radiation from a transmitter or target rather than generating its own signal.
      ‘passive sensors detect the emissions from enemy radar’
      • ‘The 82845GV GMCH is just adjacent, and is cooled by a rather small passive heatsink only.’
      • ‘System and method for determining the location of a transmitter using passive reflectors or refractors as proxy receivers and using database querying’
      • ‘It can be fired as a long-range standoff missile, or its all-aspect passive radar homing seeker can be used to detect and attack targets of opportunity.’
    2. 3.2(of a heating system) making use of incident sunlight as an energy source.
      ‘bananas can be grown at the highest altitude using passive solar heating alone’
      • ‘Space heat is primarily passive solar with a 7 kW central wood fireplace as back-up’
      • ‘In winter, the passive system makes use of the buffer zone for cooling and the mechanical system provides heating.’
      • ‘The atria act as meeting places for the company's employees, and serve as buffer zones to provide passive solar energy gains.’
      • ‘The building makes use of passive solar energy, with heat and cold stored both in the structure and below it.’
      • ‘For example one might expect that a glazed cavity like this would be used for passive solar heating or ventilation.’
      • ‘They also act as buffer zones, providing valuable passive solar energy gains that help offset the building's overall energy consumption.’
      • ‘The tree can be an important characteristic of passive solar heating, providing early afternoon summer shade, and little effect in winter with the leaves off.’
      • ‘During the 1970s energy crisis, many designers and builders plunged into passive solar home construction.’
      • ‘Energy-conscious design may combine conservation methods, such as insulation and thermostat set-back, with passive solar heating.’
      • ‘Clad in mirrored glass over a uniform space frame, the design boasts passive solar heating and wind cooling obtained through operable strips of ventilating windows.’
      • ‘Several passive cooling systems have been developed and tested.’
      • ‘A skylight can be an efficient and desirable source of passive solar heating, assuming that you need the heat.’
      • ‘A passive solar hot-water system preheats water for the showers, and a photovoltaic array supplements municipal electricity.’
      • ‘Earthen homes are appropriate for a variety of climates and are ideally suited for passive solar heating and cooling.’
      • ‘To maximize passive solar heating from the Colorado winter sun, these houses are oriented with their long dimension facing within 30 degrees of south.’
      • ‘Through passive solar heating and cooling, the structures will minimize their reliance on fossil fuels.’
      • ‘The cold-sink will never fail, allows the air around the plants to stay heated and uses absolutely free, passive energy.’
      • ‘Most earth homes are concentrated in hot, dry climates and are suited for passive solar heating and cooling in such areas.’
      • ‘Other systems include integrated wastewater treatment, photovoltaic electrical systems, solar hot water and passive solar heating.’
      • ‘Where am I going to put my house to maximize passive solar heating?’
  • 4Chemistry
    (of a metal) made unreactive by a thin inert surface layer of oxide.

    • ‘This chromium oxide film is passive and stable, and it seals the base metal from exposure to the atmosphere, thereby precluding further oxidation.’
    • ‘Cooling the SiS645 northbridge is a silver, passive heatsink.’
    • ‘I expected that the passive design would require a greater cooling surface area - or at least, metal tubing instead of plastic hoses to provide better thermal dissipation.’
    • ‘The Nernst equation indicates whether passive K + uptake can be mediated by ion channels or if there is a need for carrier-mediated transport.’


  • 1A passive form of a verb.

    • ‘But the whole tension of these two lines focuses on the verb - active, passive or participle?’
    • ‘One of the keys to the slant of any newspaper story is seeing which way the unsupported passives go.’
    • ‘Since in the latter the indirect object has become the subject of the sentence, the construction is called the indirect passive.’
    • ‘The question is simply this: do these words give us a true example of a verb that is middle or passive in form but active in meaning?’
    • ‘In actuality, only the first two examples are passives.’
    • ‘But readies for does not occur at all, and the six occurrences of readied for are all passives (so they illustrate the transitive verb).’
    • ‘It was thought to be characterized by a fairly high proportion of such features as subordinate clauses, adjectives, the pronoun I and passives.’
    • ‘Have you ever read something that assiduously avoids all passives and progressives?’
    • ‘What about conjoining a passive with an active?’
    • ‘By the way, they discuss many different kinds of bias on the part of Reuters, not just choice between actives and passives.’
    • ‘This confirms my point here; these passives do not have a passive meaning.’
    • ‘The original was in the active voice, but the ‘when’ clause was in the passive.’
    • ‘With this framework, one can see politeness strategies in regularities of scientific style - such as the use of pronouns and of passives - that are usually explained in terms of conventions.’
    • ‘Choose active or passive verbs for their special effects.’
    1. 1.1The passive voice.
      • ‘Further, with all forms except the aorist and future, we are not able to tell whether a verb is middle or passive.’
      • ‘Use active verbs - but don't dismiss the passive.’
      • ‘This often works, but if you are writing in the active mood, the changes to the passive for the circumlocutions can be irksome.’
      • ‘It followed that findings should be presented in the third person, and in a passive and cautious voice.’
      • ‘But I really do hate passive voice and buried claims like the plague.’
      • ‘Here the verbs are in the present passive: the Christian is being changed.’
      • ‘I learned the distinction between the active and passive voice as early as fifth grade.’
      • ‘We have already observed that during the time of Hellenistic Greek, the middle voice form was losing ground to the passive.’


Late Middle English (in passive, also in the sense ‘(exposed to) suffering, acted on by an external agency’): from Latin passivus, from pass- suffered, from the verb pati.