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[ad-i-tiv] /ˈæd ɪ tɪv/
something that is added, as one substance to another, to alter or improve the general quality or to counteract undesirable properties:
an additive that thins paint.
  1. Also called food additive. a substance added directly to food during processing, as for preservation, coloring, or stabilization.
  2. something that becomes part of food or affects it as a result of packaging or processing, as debris or radiation.
characterized or produced by addition; cumulative:
an additive process.
Mathematics. (of a function) having the property that the function of the union or sum of two quantities is equal to the sum of the functional values of each quantity; linear.
Origin of additive
From the Late Latin word additīvus, dating back to 1690-1700. See additament, -ive
Related forms
additively, adverb
interadditive, adjective
subadditive, adjective
subadditively, adverb Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for additive
Historical Examples
  • These quantities are additive for years after 1800, and subtractive for years before that epoch.

    Astrology Sepharial
  • The first number should be additive, the second subtractive, etc.

    Visual Signaling Signal Corps United States Army
  • The additive was relaxation and his world was to be as commonplace as the hearth.

    The Land of Look Behind Paul Cameron Brown
  • The relationships are not arithmetical, additive, mechanical, but are vital and organic.

    The Value of Money Benjamin M. Anderson, Jr.
  • The additive and subtractive methods are chiefly involved, but there is another method which is an "averaging" additive one.

    Artificial Light M. Luckiesh
  • It is, however, better to employ the additive effect of a definite number of feeble make-and-break shocks.

    Life Movements in Plants Sir Jagadis Chunder Bose
  • By a most remarkable coincidence, the Egyptians, as the Mayas, considered these additive five days unlucky.

    Vestiges of the Mayas Augustus Le Plongeon
  • When the attached thermometer reads below 28, the correction is additive.

  • Conversely, indefinite integrals are indeterminate to the extent of an additive constant.

  • Bearing in mind the additive effects of stimulus we see that its effective intensity increases with the duration of application.

British Dictionary definitions for additive


characterized or produced by addition; cumulative
any substance added to something to improve it, prevent deterioration, etc
short for food additive
Word Origin
C17: from Late Latin additīvus, from addere to add
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 additive

1690s, "tending to be added," from Latin additivus "added, annexed," from past participle stem of addere (see addition).


"something that is added" to a chemical solution or food product, 1945, from additive (adj.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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additive in Medicine

additive ad·di·tive (ād'ĭ-tĭv)
A substance added in small amounts to something else to improve, strengthen, or otherwise alter it.

ad'di·tive adj.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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additive in Science
Noun  A substance added in small amounts to something else to improve, strengthen, or otherwise alter it. Additives are used for a variety of reasons. They are added to food, for example, to enhance taste or color or to prevent spoilage. They are added to gasoline to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, and to plastics to enhance molding capability.

  1. Relating to the production of color by the mixing of light rays of varying wavelengths. ◇ The additive primaries red, green, and blue are those colors whose wavelengths can be mixed in different proportions to produce all other spectral colors. Compare subtractive. See Note at color.

  2. Mathematics Marked by, produced by, or involving addition.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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