Definition of positive in English:



  • 1Consisting in or characterized by the presence rather than the absence of distinguishing features.

    • ‘Individuals were classified as alopic if they had a positive reaction to any tested allergen.’
    • ‘According to orthodox Christianity, evil is not a positive force but the absence of God.’
    • ‘Mitomycin C and cyclophosphamide were used as positive controls in the absence and presence of S9, respectively.’
    • ‘Having said what meaning and understanding are not, Wittgenstein proceeds to give a positive account of what they are.’
    • ‘You are indicating to yourself that you are starting from a negative position, rather than a positive position.’
    • ‘One way to find such genetic signatures is to search for genes that reveal signs of positive natural selection.’
    • ‘Because that illustrates a failure in the system, rather than a positive understanding by the individual.’
    • ‘Sadly, there may be many cases where we have to make do with the lesser of two evils rather than a positive good, but there is always a choice.’
    • ‘Now the dominant trend in radio is to avoid giving listeners a reason to turn off, rather than offering a positive reason to turn on in the first place.’
    1. 1.1Expressing or implying affirmation, agreement, or permission.
      ‘the company received a positive response from investors’
      • ‘According to Dan Duddingston, the community response has been overwhelmingly positive.’
      • ‘Such an involvement for the appraisal of teachers ensures satisfaction and positive reinforcement for the staff also.’
      • ‘‘We have had a very positive response from customers on both the new look bar and the food,’ said a spokeswoman.’
      • ‘Obviously, those playlists got a positive response and the station acted accordingly.’
      • ‘Of course, there were a number of positive responses, from quiet appeals for calm to supportive speeches in the House of Commons.’
      • ‘We end the session with positive affirmations of how good things are going to be someday, when Craig or a judge will finally listen to them.’
      • ‘They were met with a positive response from a number of musicians who believed they could generate money by simply turning up and playing some songs.’
      • ‘Even if it's a positive response, a single bank or investor is not enough to open a restaurant.’
      • ‘She said the allocation of R500m was a positive affirmation of the role teachers played in the community.’
      • ‘Maybe I need some of that positive affirmation, brothers and sisters.’
      • ‘We have just achieved a fantastic result here, and I think at home there's been a really positive response to what we've been doing.’
      • ‘That should imply positive announcements from this trio.’
      • ‘Well, in the absence of positive reporting, then there are going to be some negative questions.’
      • ‘What I hope is distinctive about this book is that it mainly concentrates on a positive case for atheism rather than on attacks on religion.’
      • ‘Expecting a positive response from the Government, Mr McLoone said the unions don't have much room for manoeuvre.’
      • ‘Det Supt Ernie Roper, who is leading the investigation, said he was very encouraged by the positive response.’
      • ‘But he consulted with our allies in such a way that the response was very positive and I thought very good.’
      • ‘I have not tried to make a positive case for land value taxation, which seemed superfluous.’
      • ‘There is a positive response from farmers to the safety message.’
      • ‘Responses were very positive; some even thanked me writing such an article, and they mainly came from Americans.’
      • ‘Truth be told, he didn't get many positive responses to his concerns.’
      affirmative, favourable, approving, in the affirmative, good, constructive, enthusiastic, supportive, reassuring, encouraging, corroborative
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    2. 1.2(of the results of a test or experiment) indicating that a certain substance or condition is present or exists.
      ‘the positive results of a pregnancy test’
      ‘a positive test for Down's syndrome’
      • ‘Should the test have a positive result, indicating that a condition has been detected, the parents will need counselling and support.’
      • ‘The infections were detected in recipients by a positive blood smear.’
      • ‘He won the event in 2002, but tested positive for the banned substance nandrolone the year after.’
      • ‘Incorrect responses on either or both tasks are scored as a positive result, indicating dementia.’
      • ‘Four percent of the children were admitted to a hospital because of positive blood cultures.’
      • ‘They only call if the results are positive and my tests had come back so.’
      • ‘In the first few days of testing, half of the samples from current employees came back positive.’
      • ‘Patients with positive test results should be treated to eradicate the infection.’
      • ‘Transbronchial biopsies and brushings returned positive for non-small cell carcinoma.’
      • ‘If you are now in a relationship, you may wish to ask your doctor about how to explain your positive test result to your partner.’
      • ‘Patients were considered to be HIV-positive only if both tests gave a positive result.’
      • ‘Any of these scenarios could result in a positive drug test for someone who is not impaired while driving.’
      • ‘A positive skin test result may mean the individual is more vulnerable to asthma, hay fever, and eczema.’
      • ‘Jones has always denied all the allegations and has never tested positive for any banned substances.’
      • ‘If any test result is positive, the test should be repeated immediately for confirmation.’
      • ‘Tuberculin skin test results are positive in two thirds of patients.’
      • ‘In 28 cases, results were positive using one test but negative using another.’
      • ‘The experiment has shown positive results, and presently, the infants are living normally.’
      showing a reaction, affirmative
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    3. 1.3(of a person) having a specified condition, or showing traces of a specified substance in their body.
      ‘a player had tested positive for cocaine use’
      [in combination] ‘he is HIV-positive’
      • ‘An HIV-positive patient is determined to have progressed to full-blown AIDS when they develop any one of a number of symptoms, diseases or viruses.’
      • ‘In HPV-positive women, not knowing what their results meant was associated with extremely high levels of anxiety.’
      • ‘At her next pregnancy the mother will then pass those antibodies against Rh-positive blood to the fetus.’
  • 2Constructive, optimistic, or confident.

    ‘there needs to be a positive approach to young offenders’
    ‘adopt a positive outlook on life’
    • ‘Despite all this, I'm actually feeling rather positive about the impending arrival.’
    • ‘The outlook he had on what was happening to the city around him was rather positive.’
    • ‘What we will try and do is use these couple of weeks and be positive rather than talk about it.’
    • ‘She says we have to learn to use anger in a positive way, rather than letting it control us.’
    • ‘Otherwise, the outlook was impressively positive and upbeat.’
    • ‘If we are to move forward, we must espouse this more positive approach in all dimensions of the club's activity.’
    • ‘From Miss Ewart's view, a positive attitude rather than skill base is the most important quality in a prospective employee.’
    • ‘They will be confident of a positive start against the Mexicans once more.’
    • ‘They should exercise daily and maintain a positive, hopeful outlook toward the future.’
    • ‘Clutching his prize after Monday's ceremony, Wiseman said there was a more positive and confident mood in the country than was evident a few years ago.’
    • ‘Where we find ourselves now, however, is a brighter, more positive and optimistic place.’
    • ‘At the same time, he tried to use egotism in a positive way, rather than destroying it outright.’
    • ‘Having a positive approach is essential if you are to move forward.’
    • ‘Instead, he has welcomed the renewed focus among members on a more positive campaign rather than industrial action.’
    • ‘I have always kept my optimism and my positive approach to life.’
    • ‘Exuding confidence and advocating a positive outlook, he has no harsh words for anyone.’
    • ‘He'll stay near his family and provide them with the strong and positive presence he always has.’
    • ‘The aim is to build a positive image for a brand that can provide long-term returns.’
    • ‘We need positive comments rather than focusing on the negatives which do nothing to help the situation.’
    • ‘I hope you will consider the use and practice of non-violence in a more creative and positive way, rather than dismiss it as mere idealism.’
    • ‘The meeting appeared to be positive and constructive and we were assured that our views would be taken on board.’
    • ‘I also know that the image of your company and brand is important to you and that you want to be associated with positive images of women.’
    constructive, practical, useful, pragmatic, productive, helpful, worthwhile, beneficial, effective, efficacious
    optimistic, hopeful, confident, forward-looking, cheerful, sanguine, buoyant, assured
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    1. 2.1Showing progress or improvement.
      ‘the prospects for positive growth in the economy do not look good’
      • ‘But the problem is that nobody really has been talking about the positive features of life in Africa.’
      • ‘The important factor is that the underlying trend remains positive rather than individual isolated cases.’
      • ‘In the final 15 minutes this nearly paid off as all three had shots on target and were a feature of Ilkley's positive moments.’
      • ‘We are assured that the Olympics will leave London a positive legacy rather than massive debt.’
      • ‘They blame all the ills of society on ‘them’, rather than looking for positive solutions.’
      • ‘A sense of security and safety is one of the positive features of living in rural areas.’
      • ‘It is unfortunate that newspapers publicise the few negative incidents rather than the many positive ones.’
      • ‘At the other end of the scale, countries like Russia and Kazakhstan may not have achieved positive growth rates until the end of the century.’
      • ‘In some cases architectural features can have a positive impact on security and on the appearance of a building.’
      • ‘Reports from the three principal officers showed a positive year and were optimistic for the future.’
      • ‘We would rather prefer to see positive measures in the same fields when linking aid to migration.’
      • ‘Furthermore, we are unable to see how such a move could result in a positive outcome for women's health and welfare with no adverse effects.’
      • ‘But feeding back to parish councils or whoever on our progress is a positive step.’
      • ‘The ability to choose is a very positive feature of our education system in Australia.’
      • ‘This is the second consecutive quarter of positive growth since the beginning of 2002 - which bodes well for next year.’
      • ‘The school was inspected in September and found to have lots of positive features.’
      • ‘Rather, they are positive steps to achieve equality of outcomes for men and women.’
      • ‘Rather, positive steps should be taken to enhance the opportunity of those disadvantaged by such social factors as family background.’
      • ‘For our purposes, it's enough to say that lowering inflation has positive growth effects.’
      • ‘We cannot leave generation after generation without hope of the possibility of positive change.’
      • ‘But science is progressing in a positive manner and countries like India should take advantage of that.’
      favourable, good, pleasing, welcome, promising, encouraging, heartening, propitious, auspicious
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  • 3With no possibility of doubt; definite.

    ‘he made a positive identification of a glossy ibis’
    • ‘As yet there is no positive evidence for this theory, but if modified a little it is attractive.’
    • ‘The funeral director made a positive identification by a tattoo on Ray's arm of a hammerhead shark.’
    • ‘Possible relatives of the dead man later came forth but could not give a positive identification.’
    • ‘The officer told him that if he could not make a positive identification he should say so; then it was that he told the officer that he was not sure.’
    • ‘An inquest was opened in 1991 after the discovery of her body but has never been resumed because of the lack of a positive identification.’
    • ‘There was no reason in the absence of positive evidence to conclude that the organization had any continuing role as trustee.’
    • ‘Upon positive identification, the user is alerted by both an audible and visual alarm.’
    • ‘He is giving, I would submit, direct, positive evidence of identification.’
    • ‘It has so far proved difficult to make a positive identification of the lorry driver, but he was believed to be a Polish national.’
    • ‘The woman was able to provide a positive identification of the pair of teens, who were charged with theft.’
    • ‘The phrasing of Article 25 implies a positive duty, commitment, or obligation by government.’
    • ‘The positive identification of the body means the bodies of all four Irish people lost in the disaster have been recovered.’
    • ‘You need someone who has the actual expertise to confirm positive identification.’
    • ‘She considered many things on her walk but found no positive answers.’
    • ‘Where then, Marx asks, is the positive possibility of German freedom to be found?’
    • ‘While these statistics offer positive information for university graduates, the survey response rate is extremely discouraging.’
    • ‘I wish I had a more concrete, definite, positive, upbeat answer to give.’
    • ‘The security footage produced a positive identification of the vans, but not of the people inside.’
    • ‘It is getting harder, but it is still possible to earn a positive real return on your savings, and savers should be striving for the best possible deal.’
    • ‘The rate of offending for street crime is down by 19 per cent, a very positive decrease that is down to a lot of hard work and effort.’
    • ‘Therefore, a certain naiveté, unburdened by conventional wisdom, can sometimes be a positive asset.’
    definite, conclusive, certain, categorical, unequivocal, incontrovertible, indisputable, undeniable, incontestable, unmistakable, unambiguous, indubitable, unquestionable, irrefutable, beyond question, beyond a doubt, absolute, reliable, persuasive, convincing, concrete, tangible, clear, clear-cut, precise, direct, explicit, express, firm, decisive, real, actual
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    1. 3.1Convinced in one's opinion; certain.
      ‘‘You are sure it was the same man?’ ‘Positive!’ said George’
      • ‘I am positive that my theory is correct, so I don't think I would ever bother to find any evidence to support it.’
      • ‘She hated him, that was very certain and she grew more and more positive of this fact as the next few days passed.’
      • ‘Makaab said Mbesuma had been training hard and that he was determined and positive of succeeding in European football.’
      • ‘My bets are on number three to win, and I'm almost positive that she will!’
      • ‘I am positive that the band would sell thousands of records with numerous sold out tours if they were American.’
      • ‘I told them I was positive of who it was, they didn't have to worry about it.’
      • ‘I am very positive that something can be sorted out and that I will be able to continue to play league football.’
      • ‘Officers had been 99.9 per cent positive it was Jenna because the teenager's ring was found with the body.’
      • ‘Eyewitness testimony in court cases - even from witnesses who are absolutely positive about what they saw - should be taken with a grain of salt.’
      • ‘She couldn't explain the feeling, but she was positive someone else was inside.’
      • ‘I've learnt a huge amount from Geoff since we contested the Cambrian Rally and I'm very positive that we can have an excellent year.’
      • ‘I'm also pretty positive that they have to check their email everyday, so I'm sure she got the email.’
      • ‘During training you can spend time working on your techniques and I am positive that it has helped my game.’
      • ‘I'm positive I'll go back and ski there again.’
      • ‘She was positive that a mistake would happen.’
      • ‘In Scotland we have too many cases of referees that are overweight and too slow to keep up, and I am positive that this goes on in England too.’
      • ‘I was almost positive that enlisted men were not supposed to speak to their betters in such a familiar manner.’
      • ‘Neither of these persons was able to produce the original or any copy of the assignment, although both of them were positive that an assignment had been made.’
      • ‘I was lucky that time, but I was positive I would not be so lucky this time.’
      certain, sure, convinced, confident, satisfied, free from doubt, assured, persuaded
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    2. 3.2informal [attributive]Downright; complete (used for emphasis)
      ‘it's a positive delight to see you’
      • ‘Food shopping online is a positive delight compared to a couple of years ago, according to those consumer guardians at Which?’
      • ‘I had an Iron Maiden Tshirt, despite having no affinity for the Maiden at all, and, in fact, a positive disdain.’
      • ‘Some theologians have a positive genius for cloaking sensible ideas in impenetrable jargon.’
      utter, complete, sheer, absolute, real, total, perfect, out-and-out, pure, outright, thoroughgoing, thorough, downright, unmitigated, unqualified, consummate, veritable, rank, unalloyed
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  • 4(of a quantity) greater than zero.

    • ‘He defines limits of positive variable quantities using ideas that he had used in looking at limits of series.’
    • ‘Any and every G sequence which eventually has only positive numbers occurs as a row in this array.’
    • ‘If we subtract a positive number from an empty power, the same negative number remains.’
    • ‘This is an alternative derivation of Newton's method for finding square roots of positive numbers.’
    • ‘Zero divided by negative or positive numbers is either zero or is expressed as a fraction with zero as numerator and the finite quantity as denominator.’
    • ‘He also worked on number theory proving in 1770 that every positive integer is the sum of four squares.’
    • ‘All positive whole numbers are either primes or they can be uniquely decomposed into a product of primes.’
    • ‘This indicated that no specific attention was warranted to these near zero or small positive values.’
  • 5Containing, producing, or denoting an electric charge opposite to that carried by electrons.

    ‘each battery has a positive and negative terminal’
    • ‘Predicted by quantum theory, ghost radiation is a negative energy field that dampens normal positive energy.’
    • ‘The atom that loses electrons gains a positive charge, becoming a cation.’
    • ‘While studying streams of ionized gas Wien, in 1898, identified a positive particle equal in mass to the hydrogen atom.’
    • ‘Electrons and positive ions, the components of plasma, are charged particles.’
    • ‘Since nuclei carry positive electrical charges, they normally repel one another.’
    • ‘Acidic lipids enhance the adsorption of positive ions due to their negative charge.’
    • ‘Plucker used a glass tube filled with air and containing a positive and a negative electrode.’
    • ‘These minerals in their ion state carry either negative or positive charges, much like a car battery.’
    • ‘It contains both positive and negative charges, but its net charge is positive.’
    • ‘There is a net positive charge - there are more protons in the nucleus than electrons surrounding it.’
    • ‘At least one of the positive and negative high voltage power supplies switches between a high state and a low state.’
  • 6(of a photographic image) showing lights and shades or colours true to the original.

    • ‘To his great surprise, when Pia examined his negatives, there was a positive image!’
    • ‘This kind of photograph is a unique positive picture produced on a thin sheet of iron blackened by tar.’
    • ‘In fact, there are two copies of that issue in the bound volumes - one cover features a positive shot, the other a negative one.’
    • ‘There was a darkroom, an optical printer to blow 8mm up to 16 mm, a contact printer to make positive 16 mm prints from negatives, an editing table, etc.’
  • 7Grammar
    Denoting the primary degree of an adjective or adverb, which expresses simple quality without qualification.

    Contrasted with comparative and superlative
    • ‘We were studying positive, comparative and superlative adjectives and, as usual, having a pretty hard time with it.’
  • 8Philosophy
    Dealing only with matters of fact and experience; not speculative or theoretical.

    Compare with positivism
    • ‘There is, furthermore, the second, positive Nietzschean understanding of a necessary distance between the sexes.’
    • ‘In other words, it attempts to form a positive conception of noumena.’
    • ‘Socrates never claimed any special positive knowledge of justice, virtue, and so on.’
    • ‘This revolt, joined to an ascetic and sterile devotion to positive fact, would ultimately slay even God.’
    • ‘He abandoned his family and his career as a mathematics teacher to preach a new religion which he called positive philosophy.’
  • 9Astrology
    Relating to or denoting any of the air or fire signs, considered active in nature.


  • 1A desirable or constructive quality or attribute.

    ‘take your weaknesses and translate them into positives’
    ‘to manage your way out of recession, accentuate the positive’
    • ‘Still, you tend to forget the downsides and focus on the positive.’
    • ‘Central to the administration's strategy is to pivot the spotlight to the positive.’
    • ‘My entire opinion of him changed to the positive, and I liked him much more on season three.’
    • ‘But for me there have been more positives than negatives in the arrangement and I don't think I'm so unique as to be the only farmer able to say that.’
    • ‘With Thierry Henry close to signing a new contract, however, Wenger is at pains to keep accentuating the positive.’
    • ‘I suggest we start to look for the positive in this planned wind farm.’
    • ‘Negative arguments present themselves all too easily, but look at the positive.’
    • ‘But before we get to those little things let's concentrate on the positive.’
    • ‘The player might have done nothing else for the entire match but Ivan would always remember the positive.’
    • ‘‘We were careful to weigh the positives against the negatives, because this was a critical area of activity going to a third party,’ he said.’
    • ‘He just had to walk into any room and the whole ambiance changed for the positive.’
    • ‘It's important to dwell on the positive in life, because tragedy lurks around the corner.’
    • ‘The mid - term evaluation asked students, in an open-ended format, to relate the positives and negatives of each course they are taking that semester.’
    • ‘All the health information has a definite bias towards the positive.’
    • ‘Share your feelings about the separation - both the positives and the negatives.’
    • ‘It figures, considering how often I forget that I'm supposed to make a habit of focusing on the positive by writing it all down.’
    • ‘Now we are seeking to further accentuate the positive.’
    • ‘‘The positives far outweigh the negatives, but if there is a drawback, it is the traveling,’ says Serlenga.’
    • ‘But seeing the best in them is different - you concentrate on the positive rather than what's lacking.’
    • ‘Wiping the dirt from her face, she stopped to take a break and focus on the positive.’
    • ‘Paul Martin is keen to get the area back on track by playing up the positive.’
  • 2A positive photographic image, especially one printed from a negative.

    ‘the photographic process involves separate runs with the red, green, and blue separation positives’
    • ‘It has a built-in transparency adapter, so it can scan 35 mm photo negatives and positives (slides).’
    • ‘Once you've got that original positive, you can do what ever you want, and it looks pretty cool in its own right - I have one hanging in my hall.’
    • ‘In this process I first make a contact interpositive and then an enlarged negative from the contact positive.’
    • ‘The first test is to determine the correct exposure for a film positive.’
  • 3A result of a test or experiment indicating that a certain substance or condition is present or exists.

    ‘let us look at the distribution of those positives’
    • ‘A rare, lethal disease with painful treatment, on the other hand, requires a diagnostic tool with very few false positives and negatives.’
    • ‘The proportion of test positives that are true positives is the positive predictive value of a test: an index of the test's precision.’
    • ‘The positive predictive value was calculated as true positives over true plus false positives.’
    • ‘A test is perfectly accurate if it is both perfectly sensitive and perfectly specific, never producing either false negatives or false positives.’
    • ‘Treatment would then be offered if tests are positives.’
    • ‘The sensitivity of the test is the proportion of positives, corresponding to the positive result obtained by the standard test.’
    • ‘Overholser must take into account the number of false positives and false negatives in the data to assess the performance of the instrument.’
    • ‘The ATP took responsibility for the positives because its own trainers had handed out the supplements that could have caused the positive tests.’
    • ‘About 1.5x10 plaques were screened and five positives were detected, indicating that the clone was present at 0.003% of the total library.’
    • ‘One important step was further refining of the analyses to reduce false positives and false negatives while statistically assessing changes in gene activity.’
    • ‘Use of an internal probe did not completely eliminate false positives or false negatives.’
    • ‘The total of 72 positives out of 2,868 tests conducted on Scottish Division soldiers was the highest proportion of failures of any unit in the army.’
  • 4[mass noun] The part of an electric circuit that is at a higher electrical potential than another point designated as having zero electrical potential.

    ‘try linking the signal input directly to positive’
  • 5A number greater than zero.

    • ‘Two positives combined will always yield another positive.’
  • 6Grammar
    An adjective or adverb in the positive degree.


Late Middle English: from Old French positif, -ive or Latin positivus, from posit- placed, from the verb ponere. The original sense referred to laws as being formally ‘laid down’, which gave rise to the sense ‘explicitly laid down and admitting no question’, hence ‘certain’.