Definition of descriptive in English:



  • 1Serving or seeking to describe.

    • ‘Some of his descriptive passages are composed with great power and elegance.’
    • ‘This book is primarily a descriptive work, seeking to provide detail about a specific historical missionary activity.’
    • ‘The tale is more realistic, the characters deeper and troubled and the descriptive passages delightful.’
    • ‘The descriptive passages when she has tea with friends, or tends her garden, or shops for blouses to fit her ample bosom are a pleasure and add a completeness to the character.’
    • ‘The woodland is seen through poetry, descriptive text and a mosaic of pictures.’
    • ‘James, who has just returned to school as a Year 10 pupil, chose to write the descriptive passage as a homework task for English.’
    • ‘A particularly concise and elegant passage of descriptive work comes from a fellow essayist.’
    • ‘One of the strengths of this book lies in the descriptive passages.’
    • ‘With brief yet descriptive passages moving quickly from one scene to another, he conveys a sustained air of urgency.’
    • ‘His descriptive passages are often a rhapsodic rush to the edge of sentimentality, only undercut in the final moment by a shift in tone.’
    • ‘I didn't find the plot particularly gripping, but the level of period detail in the book's descriptive passages was excellent.’
    • ‘One has the sense of an actual, as opposed to a fictional, narrator forced to convey a plethora of background information about his characters, at the expense of descriptive detail and incident.’
    • ‘The beautiful pictures and descriptive commentary showed what a fine country Zimbabwe is.’
    • ‘There were no flowery. descriptive passages: it was almost entirely a dialogue exchange between the girl and her brother.’
    • ‘Indeed, the book is replete with descriptive detail.’
    • ‘His descriptive letters painted a picture of life in Tasmania for readers back in England.’
    • ‘This is a handbook, with many tables and lengthy descriptive passages.’
    • ‘The descriptive passages make the reader feel as if he or she is actually present.’
    • ‘The prose is workmanlike but plain; the author makes no attempt to spice it up with colorful quotations, amusing anecdotes, or passages of descriptive writing.’
    • ‘Most interesting to readers of Environmental History will be long, descriptive passages on the natural environment.’
    illustrative, expressive, pictorial, depictive, graphic, picturesque, vivid, striking
    explanatory, elucidatory, explicative, exegetic, expository
    detailed, lively, circumstantial
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    1. 1.1Grammar (of an adjective) assigning a quality rather than restricting the application of the expression modified, e.g., blue as distinct from few.
      • ‘Freud recognized that the term ‘unconscious’ was better used as a descriptive adjective rather than as a topographical noun.’
      • ‘‘Vibrant’ is actually one of the rare descriptive adjectives which I have never turned into an adverb.’
      • ‘Sometimes the descriptive noun phrase has already been used in a previous clause, and to avoid repetition, the anaphor such is substituted.’
      • ‘As the number of negative descriptive adjectives increased, so did the youths' self-reported involvement in delinquency.’
      • ‘As stated earlier, the present study utilizes a semantic differential scale which was comprised of six contrasting descriptive adjectives.’
  • 2Describing or classifying without expressing feelings or judging.

    • ‘The bulk of the volume consists of descriptive and interpretive catalogue entries for each mask.’
    • ‘As indicated above, we view this range as descriptive, not evaluative.’
    • ‘The incidence, location, and type of injury, time loss caused by injury, and onset of injury were evaluated by using descriptive statistics.’
    • ‘The qualifying examinations were never objective, but descriptive.’
    • ‘Even when intended to serve merely as descriptive terms of classification, the terms carry much historical and ideological baggage that bears on human rights concerns.’
    • ‘Despite these limitations, descriptive studies, interpreted with suitable caution, can offer some useful insight to complement the data from studies using randomisation.’
    • ‘What becomes clear is that ‘there are no descriptive facts without interpretive theory’.’
    • ‘It serves a descriptive and classificatory purpose only.’
    • ‘The study was classified as a descriptive study.’
    • ‘This descriptive study sought to develop a profile of women in the agricultural and extension education at the post-secondary level.’
    • ‘Most of the book is objectively descriptive, be the focus spiritual or scientific.’
    • ‘These techniques are referred to as object oriented because they focus on modeling real-world objects, including both descriptive data and behavior.’
    • ‘Facts (the objective) are descriptive, where events (the exemplary) partake in a process.’
    • ‘Each portrait includes a descriptive evaluation of each space and a precis of its legal requirements, accompanied by a photograph and a scaled schematic site plan.’
    • ‘The purpose of this descriptive study was to evaluate nurses' acceptance and use of an IV catheter safety needle designed to reduce injuries.’
    • ‘Classical, descriptive paleontology is very good at dealing with this sort of pattern.’
    • ‘All good objects will have descriptive and administrative metadata.’
    • ‘Survey questions were initially evaluated using simple descriptive statistics.’
    • ‘The medical record, as a legal document, must contain factual, objective, descriptive data.’
    • ‘One descriptive study evaluated the preparation, emotions, and experiences of parents during their child's anesthesia induction.’
    explaining, describing, illustrative, illuminative, elucidative, elucidatory, explicative, evaluative, interpretive, expository, revelatory, by way of explanation
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    1. 2.1Linguistics Denoting or relating to an approach to language analysis that describes accents, forms, structures, and usage without making value judgments.
      Often contrasted with prescriptive
      • ‘Such an analytic and descriptive approach has many advantages.’
      • ‘He seems, first of all, to misunderstand that dictionaries of the English language are descriptive, not prescriptive.’
      • ‘There have been a number of 20c scholarly grammars of English characterized by a decidedly descriptive approach and a focus on syntax.’
      • ‘There's definitely such a thing as a syntactic error, even in your native language, even as judged by descriptive linguists.’
      • ‘The main argument concerns the relationship between syntactic, textual, and ideological analysis, and the descriptive methods required in text analysis.’


Mid 18th century: from late Latin descriptivus, from descript- written down from the verb describere (see describe).