Definition of prescriptive in English:



  • 1Relating to the imposition or enforcement of a rule or method.

    ‘these guidelines are not intended to be prescriptive’
    • ‘These authors warn against a prescriptive approach, or client stereotyping.’
    • ‘One private sector insider said: ‘Their demands were very very prescriptive.’’
    • ‘There was a fear that scopes of practice would be too narrow and prescriptive, but that has never been the intention of scopes of practice.’
    • ‘And thus what seems an utterly prescriptive system of breathing, movement, and mind control becomes the vehicle for personal interpretation after all.’
    • ‘‘In the past, there were prescriptive rules and lots of checking up,’ Murray said.’
    • ‘We now understand better what it is we need, and this way I think we can be more prescriptive and deliver better value for money.’
    • ‘A four-block special district can have very prescriptive rules that would be inappropriate for an entire city.’
    • ‘It is very prescriptive and outlined how much time to spend on certain areas as well as which words to teach each week.’
    • ‘The more parents are led to believe that they need this kind of prescriptive advice about how to relate to their children, the more stilted and insecure they are going to become in everyday interactions with their kids.’
    • ‘The Dairy Industry Act is rigid and prescriptive, and it is time indeed for a revamp.’
    • ‘In practice, the so-called multicultural agenda, when it is adopted by the state, turns into a very, very prescriptive and limiting set of choices with all sorts of connotations which I might not like.’
    • ‘The original schedule 2 in the bill - which has now been superseded - was very much more prescriptive and clear about what needed to be enforced and what was acceptable and unacceptable.’
    • ‘I'm generally supportive of Higgs, but I don't like the prescriptive nature of it.’
    • ‘But in many cases so-called ‘simplification’ often requires more extensive clarification that can lead to more detailed and prescriptive regulation.’
    • ‘I would be very concerned about whether or not something really is mentoring if you have prescriptive outcomes.’
    • ‘A cursory review of the language in these regulations from state to state reveals noticeable differences in the wording, from very prescriptive language to very broad guidelines.’
    • ‘Ethical obligations are not about prescriptive rules and regulation nor complying with the law.’
    • ‘It's difficult to be prescriptive, and it's ultimately for the Ukrainians, we hope, to resolve this, and above all, peacefully.’
    • ‘This bill is also prescriptive about whom the authority is required to consult.’
    dictatorial, authoritarian, tyrannical, despotic
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1Linguistics Attempting to impose rules of correct usage on the users of a language.
      ‘a prescriptive grammar book’
      Often contrasted with descriptive
      • ‘The lesson here is that you actually need to have a pretty good control of descriptive grammar before you can intelligently engage in prescriptive grammar.’
      • ‘It's an uphill battle to get them comfortable with the notion that ‘rightness’ is situational and that it is possible to be both descriptive and prescriptive.’
      • ‘He or she probably has the idea that to the extent that prescriptive rules are not followed, the language is somehow deteriorating.’
      • ‘These kinds of prescriptive rules are part of a very outdated conception of grammar which, surprisingly, even in expert circles, is very much alive and well.’
      • ‘Chomsky's goal was not to write a prescriptive grammar book.’
  • 2(of a right, title, or institution) having become legally established or accepted by long usage or the passage of time.

    ‘a prescriptive right of way’
    • ‘The wall the vessel is moored to has nothing to do with this matter, and furthermore no prescriptive rights apply.’
    • ‘According to Ohio case law, the minimum period required to acquire a prescriptive easement is 21 years.’
    • ‘Only in the 1680s was any serious attempt made to challenge the prescriptive rights of rural and urban elites to exercise power.’
    • ‘Yet, no one would suggest that by using it the public might acquire prescriptive rights and that the land might become a town green.’
    • ‘In both cases, the courts completely dismissed the plaintiffs' prescriptive rights arguments.’
    1. 2.1archaic Arising from long-standing custom or usage.
      ‘for her own mother she felt no more than a prescriptive affection’


Mid 18th century: from late Latin praescriptivus ‘relating to a legal exception’, from praescript- ‘directed in writing’, from the verb praescribere (see prescribe).