Definition of positive in English:



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

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘One way to find such genetic signatures is to search for genes that reveal signs of positive natural selection.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Having said what meaning and understanding are not, Wittgenstein proceeds to give a positive account of what they are.’
    • ‘Mitomycin C and cyclophosphamide were used as positive controls in the absence and presence of S9, respectively.’
    • ‘You are indicating to yourself that you are starting from a negative position, rather than a positive position.’
    • ‘Because that illustrates a failure in the system, rather than a positive understanding by the individual.’
    1. 1.1 Expressing or implying affirmation, agreement, or permission.
      ‘the company received a positive response from investors’
      • ‘Maybe I need some of that positive affirmation, brothers and sisters.’
      • ‘According to Dan Duddingston, the community response has been overwhelmingly positive.’
      • ‘Responses were very positive; some even thanked me writing such an article, and they mainly came from Americans.’
      • ‘Such an involvement for the appraisal of teachers ensures satisfaction and positive reinforcement for the staff also.’
      • ‘Truth be told, he didn't get many positive responses to his concerns.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘There is a positive response from farmers to the safety message.’
      • ‘I have not tried to make a positive case for land value taxation, which seemed superfluous.’
      • ‘But he consulted with our allies in such a way that the response was very positive and I thought very good.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘She said the allocation of R500m was a positive affirmation of the role teachers played in the community.’
      • ‘Even if it's a positive response, a single bank or investor is not enough to open a restaurant.’
      • ‘‘We have had a very positive response from customers on both the new look bar and the food,’ said a spokeswoman.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Well, in the absence of positive reporting, then there are going to be some negative questions.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘That should imply positive announcements from this trio.’
      • ‘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.’
      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’
      • ‘Patients with positive test results should be treated to eradicate the infection.’
      • ‘He won the event in 2002, but tested positive for the banned substance nandrolone the year after.’
      • ‘Jones has always denied all the allegations and has never tested positive for any banned substances.’
      • ‘The infections were detected in recipients by a positive blood smear.’
      • ‘Incorrect responses on either or both tasks are scored as a positive result, indicating dementia.’
      • ‘The experiment has shown positive results, and presently, the infants are living normally.’
      • ‘They only call if the results are positive and my tests had come back so.’
      • ‘Any of these scenarios could result in a positive drug test for someone who is not impaired while driving.’
      • ‘If any test result is positive, the test should be repeated immediately for confirmation.’
      • ‘A positive skin test result may mean the individual is more vulnerable to asthma, hay fever, and eczema.’
      • ‘Should the test have a positive result, indicating that a condition has been detected, the parents will need counselling and support.’
      • ‘Transbronchial biopsies and brushings returned positive for non-small cell carcinoma.’
      • ‘Tuberculin skin test results are positive in two thirds of patients.’
      • ‘In the first few days of testing, half of the samples from current employees came back positive.’
      • ‘In 28 cases, results were positive using one test but negative using another.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Four percent of the children were admitted to a hospital because of positive blood cultures.’
      • ‘Patients were considered to be HIV-positive only if both tests gave a positive result.’
      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’
      • ‘At her next pregnancy the mother will then pass those antibodies against Rh-positive blood to the fetus.’
      • ‘In HPV-positive women, not knowing what their results meant was associated with extremely high levels of anxiety.’
      • ‘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.’
  • 2Constructive, optimistic, or confident.

    ‘there needs to be a positive approach to young offenders’
    ‘adopt a positive outlook on life’
    • ‘They should exercise daily and maintain a positive, hopeful outlook toward the future.’
    • ‘Despite all this, I'm actually feeling rather positive about the impending arrival.’
    • ‘Exuding confidence and advocating a positive outlook, he has no harsh words for anyone.’
    • ‘Otherwise, the outlook was impressively positive and upbeat.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘We need positive comments rather than focusing on the negatives which do nothing to help the situation.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘I have always kept my optimism and my positive approach to life.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘She says we have to learn to use anger in a positive way, rather than letting it control us.’
    • ‘The outlook he had on what was happening to the city around him was rather positive.’
    • ‘The aim is to build a positive image for a brand that can provide long-term returns.’
    • ‘From Miss Ewart's view, a positive attitude rather than skill base is the most important quality in a prospective employee.’
    • ‘Having a positive approach is essential if you are to move forward.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘He'll stay near his family and provide them with the strong and positive presence he always has.’
    • ‘What we will try and do is use these couple of weeks and be positive rather than talk about it.’
    • ‘The meeting appeared to be positive and constructive and we were assured that our views would be taken on board.’
    • ‘If we are to move forward, we must espouse this more positive approach in all dimensions of the club's activity.’
    • ‘Instead, he has welcomed the renewed focus among members on a more positive campaign rather than industrial action.’
    • ‘They will be confident of a positive start against the Mexicans once more.’
    constructive, practical, useful, pragmatic, productive, helpful, worthwhile, beneficial, effective, efficacious
    optimistic, hopeful, confident, forward-looking, cheerful, sanguine, buoyant, assured
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    1. 2.1 Showing progress or improvement.
      ‘the prospects for positive growth in the economy do not look good’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Rather, they are positive steps to achieve equality of outcomes for men and women.’
      • ‘In some cases architectural features can have a positive impact on security and on the appearance of a building.’
      • ‘The ability to choose is a very positive feature of our education system in Australia.’
      • ‘But the problem is that nobody really has been talking about the positive features of life in Africa.’
      • ‘A sense of security and safety is one of the positive features of living in rural areas.’
      • ‘But science is progressing in a positive manner and countries like India should take advantage of that.’
      • ‘For our purposes, it's enough to say that lowering inflation has positive growth effects.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘We are assured that the Olympics will leave London a positive legacy rather than massive debt.’
      • ‘The school was inspected in September and found to have lots of positive features.’
      • ‘We cannot leave generation after generation without hope of the possibility of positive change.’
      • ‘We would rather prefer to see positive measures in the same fields when linking aid to migration.’
      • ‘It is unfortunate that newspapers publicise the few negative incidents rather than the many positive ones.’
      • ‘But feeding back to parish councils or whoever on our progress is a positive step.’
      • ‘They blame all the ills of society on ‘them’, rather than looking for positive solutions.’
      • ‘The important factor is that the underlying trend remains positive rather than individual isolated cases.’
      • ‘Reports from the three principal officers showed a positive year and were optimistic for the future.’
      • ‘This is the second consecutive quarter of positive growth since the beginning of 2002 - which bodes well for next year.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Rather, positive steps should be taken to enhance the opportunity of those disadvantaged by such social factors as family background.’
      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’
    • ‘Upon positive identification, the user is alerted by both an audible and visual alarm.’
    • ‘Where then, Marx asks, is the positive possibility of German freedom to be found?’
    • ‘The funeral director made a positive identification by a tattoo on Ray's arm of a hammerhead shark.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘You need someone who has the actual expertise to confirm positive identification.’
    • ‘Possible relatives of the dead man later came forth but could not give a positive identification.’
    • ‘Therefore, a certain naiveté, unburdened by conventional wisdom, can sometimes be a positive asset.’
    • ‘I wish I had a more concrete, definite, positive, upbeat answer to give.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘There was no reason in the absence of positive evidence to conclude that the organization had any continuing role as trustee.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘He is giving, I would submit, direct, positive evidence of 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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘She considered many things on her walk but found no positive answers.’
    • ‘The security footage produced a positive identification of the vans, but not of the people inside.’
    • ‘While these statistics offer positive information for university graduates, the survey response rate is extremely discouraging.’
    • ‘The positive identification of the body means the bodies of all four Irish people lost in the disaster have been recovered.’
    • ‘The phrasing of Article 25 implies a positive duty, commitment, or obligation by government.’
    • ‘As yet there is no positive evidence for this theory, but if modified a little it is attractive.’
    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. 3.1 Convinced in one's opinion; certain.
      ‘‘You are sure it was the same man?’ ‘Positive!’ said George’
      • ‘I'm positive I'll go back and ski there again.’
      • ‘I'm also pretty positive that they have to check their email everyday, so I'm sure she got the email.’
      • ‘I am very positive that something can be sorted out and that I will be able to continue to play league football.’
      • ‘I was almost positive that enlisted men were not supposed to speak to their betters in such a familiar manner.’
      • ‘My bets are on number three to win, and I'm almost positive that she will!’
      • ‘During training you can spend time working on your techniques and I am positive that it has helped my game.’
      • ‘I told them I was positive of who it was, they didn't have to worry about it.’
      • ‘I am positive that my theory is correct, so I don't think I would ever bother to find any evidence to support it.’
      • ‘Makaab said Mbesuma had been training hard and that he was determined and positive of succeeding in European football.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Officers had been 99.9 per cent positive it was Jenna because the teenager's ring was found with the body.’
      • ‘I am positive that the band would sell thousands of records with numerous sold out tours if they were American.’
      • ‘I was lucky that time, but I was positive I would not be so lucky this time.’
      • ‘She hated him, that was very certain and she grew more and more positive of this fact as the next few days passed.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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 was positive that a mistake would happen.’
      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’
      • ‘Some theologians have a positive genius for cloaking sensible ideas in impenetrable jargon.’
      • ‘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.’
      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 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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘He defines limits of positive variable quantities using ideas that he had used in looking at limits of series.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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’
    • ‘Acidic lipids enhance the adsorption of positive ions due to their negative charge.’
    • ‘It contains both positive and negative charges, but its net charge is positive.’
    • ‘While studying streams of ionized gas Wien, in 1898, identified a positive particle equal in mass to the hydrogen atom.’
    • ‘Plucker used a glass tube filled with air and containing a positive and a negative electrode.’
    • ‘At least one of the positive and negative high voltage power supplies switches between a high state and a low state.’
    • ‘There is a net positive charge - there are more protons in the nucleus than electrons surrounding it.’
    • ‘Since nuclei carry positive electrical charges, they normally repel one another.’
    • ‘These minerals in their ion state carry either negative or positive charges, much like a car battery.’
    • ‘Electrons and positive ions, the components of plasma, are charged particles.’
    • ‘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.’
  • 6(of a photographic image) showing lights and shades or colours true to the original.

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘In fact, there are two copies of that issue in the bound volumes - one cover features a positive shot, the other a negative one.’
    • ‘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.’
  • 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 (sense 1)
    • ‘This revolt, joined to an ascetic and sterile devotion to positive fact, would ultimately slay even God.’
    • ‘Socrates never claimed any special positive knowledge of justice, virtue, and so on.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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’
    • ‘Negative arguments present themselves all too easily, but look at the positive.’
    • ‘All the health information has a definite bias towards the positive.’
    • ‘He just had to walk into any room and the whole ambiance changed for the positive.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘I suggest we start to look for the positive in this planned wind farm.’
    • ‘Paul Martin is keen to get the area back on track by playing up the positive.’
    • ‘Wiping the dirt from her face, she stopped to take a break and focus on the positive.’
    • ‘But before we get to those little things let's concentrate on 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.’
    • ‘It's important to dwell on the positive in life, because tragedy lurks around the corner.’
    • ‘My entire opinion of him changed to the positive, and I liked him much more on season three.’
    • ‘The player might have done nothing else for the entire match but Ivan would always remember the positive.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Still, you tend to forget the downsides and focus on the positive.’
    • ‘Share your feelings about the separation - both the positives and the negatives.’
    • ‘Central to the administration's strategy is to pivot the spotlight to the positive.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘‘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.’
    • ‘Now we are seeking to further accentuate the positive.’
    • ‘With Thierry Henry close to signing a new contract, however, Wenger is at pains to keep accentuating 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’
    • ‘One important step was further refining of the analyses to reduce false positives and false negatives while statistically assessing changes in gene activity.’
    • ‘About 1.5x10 plaques were screened and five positives were detected, indicating that the clone was present at 0.003% of the total library.’
    • ‘Use of an internal probe did not completely eliminate false positives or false negatives.’
    • ‘A test is perfectly accurate if it is both perfectly sensitive and perfectly specific, never producing either false negatives or false positives.’
    • ‘Overholser must take into account the number of false positives and false negatives in the data to assess the performance of the instrument.’
    • ‘A rare, lethal disease with painful treatment, on the other hand, requires a diagnostic tool with very few false positives and negatives.’
    • ‘Treatment would then be offered if tests are positives.’
    • ‘The positive predictive value was calculated as true positives over true plus false positives.’
    • ‘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 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.’
    • ‘The ATP took responsibility for the positives because its own trainers had handed out the supplements that could have caused the positive tests.’
    • ‘The sensitivity of the test is the proportion of positives, corresponding to the positive result obtained by the standard test.’
  • 4mass 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’.