Definition of abortive in US English:



  • 1Failing to produce the intended result.

    ‘an abortive attempt to overthrow the government’
    • ‘She hardly ran at all in the two weeks before her abortive attempt to help the Irish team in the World Cross-country Championships in Ostend, and until last Tuesday, she had not run a step since.’
    • ‘The popular Aussie made some abortive attempts at comebacks, with dismal results, and then turned to fulltime television golf commentaries.’
    • ‘After an abortive attempt to get involved in a franchise selling teddy bears by mail order, she completed a Start Your Own Business course with Fas, borrowed the equivalent of €2,500 and started InterTeddy.’
    • ‘Parent-Teacher Chairman Mick Byrne made abortive attempts in his vintage Morris Minor and another in a tractor to confuse the children as to the actual mode of transport of Santa's arrival.’
    • ‘In the wake of that, at college in Bagdhad, he joined the Baath party and in 1956, as Britain withdrew from Suez, he took part in an abortive coup attempt.’
    • ‘Over the years, I have made abortive attempts at almost every classified form of writing.’
    • ‘Weighed down by high debts, the company made an abortive attempt at refinancing, and cancelled dividend payments in 2001.’
    • ‘Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded the north of the island in the wake of an abortive coup attempt by Greek Cypriot nationalists, aimed at uniting the island with Greece.’
    • ‘We used an earlier, abortive, suicide attempt to show that Sylvia had taken a decision not to commit suicide, for the sake of the children.’
    • ‘I refuse to talk about my abortive attempt at qualifying for the Hanley Cup lest I depress myself even more.’
    • ‘First came the abortive attempt in 1999 by the Bank of Scotland to take over the much larger NatWest, only to be gazumped by its local rival the Royal Bank of Scotland.’
    • ‘Last night's abortive attempts at a barbeque, despite lashings of the odd smelling spray, proved that the only way of avoiding midges is to stay indoors.’
    • ‘The only solace we find is that the result of the abortive poll was nullified.’
    • ‘My wife and I made abortive attempts at ordinary conversation.’
    • ‘A boat excursion heads out to Port Essington, site of the third abortive British attempt to urbanise the north coast, a decade-long debacle beginning a year into Victoria's reign in 1838.’
    • ‘The weather could not have been better, although the traffic could, but after several hold-ups and an abortive attempt to find sun oil at South Mimms services Paul and I finally got to the showground in Uxbridge at about noon.’
    • ‘She had made a brave but abortive attempt to reach the remote site on Ben More Assynt, near Sutherland in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, when she was 23.’
    • ‘After an abortive attempt to rejoin the fighting, he and Evelyn were reunited, got engaged and joined the Resistance, helping Canadian and American airmen shot down over Paris to arrange their escape routes.’
    • ‘After several abortive attempts at spelling the name of the street correctly in his notebook, the officer co-opted some bystanders and dragged the poor horse into Hoe Street.’
    • ‘After more abortive attempts, the Admiralty decided, in 1845, to send Sir John Franklin with two steamers, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, to resolve the problem.’
    failed, unsuccessful, non-successful, vain, thwarted, futile, useless, worthless, ineffective, ineffectual, to no effect, inefficacious, fruitless, unproductive, unavailing, to no avail, sterile, nugatory
    View synonyms
  • 2Medicine
    (of a virus infection) failing to produce symptoms.

    • ‘The deletion affected gene yajF with unknown function, but associated with genes involved in phage resistance through abortive infection.’
    • ‘The infection rate is extremely high, but it is probable that 95% of all infections are either asymptomatic or characterised by an abortive flu-like illness.’
    • ‘Historically, home treatment for paralytic polio and abortive polio with neurological symptoms wasn't sufficient.’
    1. 2.1dated (of an organ or organism) rudimentary; arrested in development.
      ‘abortive medusae’
      • ‘Not uncommonly, squamous differentiation and abortive gland formation is noted.’
      • ‘Jaw prehension is common in aquatic frogs, often in combination with abortive tongue protraction, but suction feeding is present only in pipids.’
      • ‘These abortive embryos do not reach the blastoderm stage.’
      • ‘Eight inflorescences carried one or two abortive ovaries that turned yellow, instead of green, and dropped off when touched with a probe.’
      • ‘These scattered ascospores belong to asci that contain at least one viable ascospore while the others have undergone abortive development, most often because they contain aneuploid nuclei.’
      rudimentary, undeveloped, incomplete, embryonic, immature
      View synonyms
  • 3rare Causing or resulting in abortion.

    ‘abortive techniques’
    • ‘Similarly I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy.’
    • ‘The Reichstag, in its turn, passed a law that restricted the national distribution of abortive and contraceptive means and planned a new law regulating cinemas.’


Middle English (as a noun denoting a stillborn child or animal): via Old French from Latin abortivus, from aboriri ‘miscarry’ (see abort).