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[uh-bawr-tiv] /əˈbɔr tɪv/
failing to succeed; unsuccessful:
an abortive rebellion; an abortive scheme.
born prematurely.
imperfectly developed; rudimentary.
  1. producing or intended to produce abortion; abortifacient.
  2. acting to halt progress of a disease.
Pathology. (of the course of a disease) short and mild without the usual, pronounced clinical symptoms.
Botany. (of seeds or pollen grains) imperfect; unable to germinate.
Origin of abortive
First recorded in 1300-50; Middle English word from Latin word abortīvus. See abort, -ive
Related forms
abortively, adverb
abortiveness, noun
nonabortive, adjective
nonabortively, adverb
nonabortiveness, noun
unabortive, adjective
unabortively, adverb
unabortiveness, noun
1. fruitless, ineffectual, bootless, unavailing, vain.
1. successful. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for abortive
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • And yet it was ministered to, in a dull and abortive manner, by all who made this feint.

    The Uncommercial Traveller Charles Dickens
  • Thus the efforts of Malique proved as abortive as the ravings of his master.

    Gomez Arias Joaqun Telesforo de Trueba y Coso
  • They are abortive births of an imperfect or vitiated instinct.

    Essays, First Series Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • And as passive resistance was their attitude, his purging scheme was abortive.

    England and Germany Emile Joseph Dillon
  • There had been in the early part of the day an abortive effort at a procession.

    Jack Hinton Charles James Lever
  • In spite of his efforts it was abortive, and he was compelled to use another.

    The Trail of '98

    Robert W. Service
British Dictionary definitions for abortive


failing to achieve a purpose; fruitless
(of organisms) imperfectly developed; rudimentary
causing abortion; abortifacient
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for abortive

late 14c., "born prematurely or dead," from Latin abortivus "pertaining to miscarriage; causing abortion," from abort-, past participle stem of aboriri "disappear, miscarry," from ab- "amiss" (see ab-) + oriri "appear, be born, arise" (see orchestra); the compound word used in Latin for deaths, miscarriages, sunsets, etc. The Latin verb for "to produce an abortion" was abigo, literally "to drive away." Not originally used to imply forced or deliberate miscarriage; from 14c.-18c. stillborn children or domestic animals were said to be abortive. Also see abortion. Related: Abortiveness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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abortive in Medicine

abortive a·bor·tive (ə-bôr'tĭv)

  1. Not reaching completion, as of a disease subsiding before it has finished its course.

  2. Partially or imperfectly developed; rudimentary.

  3. Abortifacient.

a·bor'tive·ly adv.
a·bor'tive·ness n.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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