Definition of performative in US English:



  • 1Relating to or of the nature of dramatic or artistic performance.

    ‘films which push past the limits of current performative trends’
    ‘teaching is a performative act’
    • ‘Artistic authorship itself, which emerged in the early fifteenth century as a purely performative mode, later learned to manipulate substitution.’
    • ‘Largely visual and performative, her work always includes her own body in a humorous and engaging way.’
    • ‘Exhibition spaces are increasingly transforming into performative spaces.’
    • ‘The performative nature of this piece carried through to other nearby works.’
    • ‘Performative events were also scripted into the mix.’
    1. 1.1 Characterized by the performance of a social or cultural role.
      ‘many feminist theorists have come to stress the contextual and performative aspects of gender’
      • ‘Gender is seen as a “performative ritualized practice”.’
      • ‘While Butler includes race as performative, other scholars have extended the discussion to include the mundane actions that cement one's racial identity.’
      • ‘You'll find the fundamentals of Butler's argument that gender is performative.’
      • ‘Since the 1970s, poststructuralism, psychoanalysis, and gender studies have contributed important models for exploring fashion as a cultural and performative expression of the female subject.’
      • ‘These two authors drew attention to the performative nature of societies.’
    2. 1.2Philosophy Linguistics Relating to or denoting an utterance by means of which the speaker performs a particular act (e.g. I bet, I apologize, I promise)
      ‘performative utterances do not merely describe what one is doing; to say the utterance is to do it’
      Often contrasted with constative
      • ‘He thinks performative sentences do not have truth conditions because they do not describe or report anything.’
      • ‘The poetic medium Poetry need not be written: early poetry was oral, transmitted and preserved through the mnemonic and performative skills of bards with no awareness of script or print.’
      • ‘Rather, these are performative utterances, which do not so much say something as do something.’
      • ‘But if literary language is performative and if a performative utterance is not true or false but felicitous or infelicitous, what does it mean for a literary utterance to be felicitous or infelicitous?’
      • ‘Yeah, I think we get bogged down in ‘I love you’ as performative utterance.’


  • A performative verb, sentence, or utterance.

    • ‘Illocutionary acts, in addition to covering such explicit performatives as promising, also include statements.’
    • ‘Such speech acts, called performatives, cannot be said to be true or false.’
    • ‘Promises, like most performatives, are seductions; that's their appeal and their limit.’
    • ‘At the core of speech act theory are explicit and implicit performatives, sentences that ‘are not used just to say things, i.e. describe states of affairs, but rather actively to do things.’’
    • ‘Performative utterances, or performatives, are not true or false and actually perform the action to which they refer.’