Definition of permissive in English:



  • 1Allowing or characterized by great or excessive freedom of behaviour.

    ‘a permissive parent’
    ‘the permissive society of the 60s and 70s’
    • ‘We live in a society today far more permissive than the one my parents grew up in.’
    • ‘Society is fairly permissive about entertainment today.’
    • ‘You do not have to give up your authority as a parent or be permissive to parent in a more cooperative way.’
    • ‘The 1960s, beat music and the permissive society seem centuries away.’
    • ‘The parents were permissive with or neglectful of their children, and the adolescents had developed a certain degree of independence.’
    • ‘Children of permissive parents tended to be relatively immature.’
    • ‘We seem to be living in a much more permissive society than our parents and grandparents did.’
    • ‘Parents with a permissive attitude show acceptance/involvement but not control/supervision.’
    • ‘For students who indicated that their parents had a permissive style, an average of 4.5 relevant items were chosen.’
    • ‘Do you ever feel that society is becoming too permissive?’
    • ‘Parents who are overly permissive, who give in to obnoxious or demanding children, are letting them know that bullying pays off.’
    • ‘The permissive society has taught people to think in terms of the immediate gratification of desires and appetites.’
    • ‘We now treat standards and law and order as a threat to our permissive society.’
    • ‘Some critics even believed that he and his staff were actively promoting a more permissive society.’
    • ‘There's a difference between a tolerant society and a permissive society.’
    • ‘Liberal writers from the permissive society of the 1960s are quoted and their opinions are taken to have been effective.’
    • ‘This parent is permissive and tends to be lenient.’
    • ‘What is interesting is that you find one parent too permissive and the other too controlling.’
    • ‘Parents can be very permissive; they probably don't want confrontation.’
    • ‘Two men, you might argue, played a much greater part in creating the permissive, liberal society, and neither of them were baby boomers.’
    liberal, broad-minded, open-minded, non-restrictive, free, free and easy, easy-going, live-and-let-live, latitudinarian, laissez-faire, libertarian, unprescriptive, unrestricted, tolerant, forbearing, indulgent, lenient
    View synonyms
  • 2Law
    Allowed but not obligatory; optional.

    ‘the Hague Convention was permissive, not mandatory’
    • ‘The legislation is permissive, not mandatory.’
    • ‘It is true that many fundamental or Constitutional rights are, by their very nature, expressed in permissive, rather than mandatory terms.’
    • ‘The courts have held that, where the applicable legislation is permissive, an employer's right to take a contribution holiday will be determined by the provisions of the Plan.’
    • ‘The court below read down the Act as permissive because the rules are permissive.’
    • ‘It is, however, to be noted that the power under s.14 is permissive and discretionary.’
    1. 2.1 Denoting a path available for public use by the landowner's consent, not as a legal right of way.
      ‘using permissive footpaths, you can visit meadows on both the banks of the river’
      • ‘There are no waymarks for a while, which is irritating on a permissive path.’
      • ‘Ignore the first gate but go through the second and follow a permissive path which leads straight along the river bank.’
      • ‘The complete route is along public rights of way, permissive paths and in an open access area.’
      • ‘Similar changes will be made to the orange-coloured symbols that indicate permissive paths.’
      • ‘After a day of gentle climbs there is the need to get back up the top of Cawthorne Bank which is done via a nice permissive path up through woods.’
  • 3Biology
    Allowing a biological or biochemical process to occur.

    ‘the mutants grow well at the permissive temperature’
    • ‘These periods can be determined by using shift experiments, in which cultures are shifted between the permissive and restrictive temperature.’
    • ‘Cells incubated at the permissive temperature demonstrated the typical ‘hill and valley’ appearance.’
    • ‘Incubation was at permissive temperatures for 3 days.’
    • ‘The cells released at the permissive temperature entered S phase and continued to cycle.’
    • ‘Cells were grown at a permissive temperature to midlog phase and then shifted to restrictive temperature.’
    1. 3.1 Allowing the infection and replication of viruses.
      ‘in vivo, viral expression is restricted but in vitro, cultured cells are permissive’
      • ‘Finally, the two suppressors at codon 378 are both permissive for all bacteriophages tested at either 37° or 43°.’
      • ‘Although it is a benign inhabitant of mucosal surfaces in most individuals, it is a significant cause of infection when host or environmental factors are permissive.’
      • ‘The very immune cells that are activated to destroy the virus provide a permissive environment for virus propagation and persistence.’
      • ‘Wild populations are regularly polymorphic for its two known alleles, O permissive and P restrictive, for virus multiplication and transmission.’
      • ‘Endothelial cells are permissive to infection, but they appear to be secondary targets of the virus in infected NHP.’


Late 15th century (in the sense ‘tolerated, allowed’): from Old French, or from medieval Latin permissivus, from permiss- ‘allowed’, from the verb permittere (see permit).