- Grammar. any member of a class of words that modify nouns and pronouns, primarily by describing a particular quality of the word they are modifying, as wise in a wise grandmother, or perfect in a perfect score, or handsome in He is extremely handsome. Other terms, as numbers (one cup; twelve months), certain demonstrative pronouns (this magazine; those questions), and terms that impose limits (each person; no mercy) can also function adjectivally, as can some nouns that are found chiefly in fixed phrases where they immediately precede the noun they modify, as bottle in bottle cap and bus in bus station.
- pertaining to or functioning as an adjective; adjectival: the adjective use of a noun.
- Law. concerning methods of enforcement of legal rights, as pleading and practice (opposed to substantive).
- (of dye colors) requiring a mordant or the like to render them permanent (opposed to substantive).
- Archaic. not able to stand alone; dependent: Women were seen by some (by some men, that is) as adjective creatures, needing to be cared for and protected from the vicissitudes of life.
Origin of adjective
In addition, many true adjectives are gradable. That is, they can be upgraded ( very pretty ), downgraded ( somewhat disorganized ), or intensified ( really tired ). Usually, those that should not be compared, as correct, impossible, and mortal, are also not gradable. A vote, for example, cannot be very unanimous, too unanimous, or not unanimous enough; it is either unanimous or not. And only in The Wizard of Oz is the Wicked Witch “not only merely dead, she's really most sincerely dead.” That is not to say that there are no exceptions, as can be seen at the expanded usage note for the absolute adjective unique.
Pronouns, as your, this, and each, can also function as adjectives. But it is the noun as modifier, like bottle and bus in bottle cap and bus station, that gives headaches to dictionary compilers. Faced with evidence, they must ask themselves if occasional use as a modifier makes a particular noun worthy of full adjective status. Bottle and bus certainly do not pass comparison or gradation tests; my cap isn’t more bottle than yours, nor is it very bottle. These nouns are not listed as adjectives in this dictionary. Yet similar nouns, like coffee, kitchen, and summer, are. The number of items they can modify, the number of adjectival senses they have, and the degree to which such senses differ from their noun senses all play a part in the decision. That decision, however is never final. Meanings expand and evolve. Language changes as we speak.
Examples from the Web for adjectives
Just as often, and to more stinging effect, the adjectives come from black people in this town an hour north of Detroit.A Black Cop’s Tough Words for Mike Brown
Mary M. Chapman
December 3, 2014
Pinker notes that roughly a fifth of English verbs began life as nouns or adjectives.Go Ahead, End With a Preposition: Grammar Rules We All Can Live With
November 3, 2014
And anyone who disagrees need look no further than the addition of adjectives to the Gamer.Death of ‘Gamer’ Identity: How Hardcore Trolls Pwned Themselves
September 17, 2014
The addiction to adjectives that plagues so much fantasy writing has vanished.A Fantasy Titan Invades the YA Kingdom
July 18, 2014
Nouns are adjectives, subjects disagree with objects, modifiers dangle, malapropisms abound.The Gpistolary Novel: Tao Lin’s ‘Taipei’
June 18, 2013
By the time he told his mother he was come to quoting Hurst's adjectives as his own.Stories of a Western Town
Why do substantives often differ in meaning from the verbs to which they are related, adverbs from adjectives?Cratylus
He had a fine flow of language, and his adjectives were very vigorous.The Return of Sherlock Holmes
Arthur Conan Doyle
Some men have limited knowledge of adjectives so they resort to swearing.Dollars and Sense
Col. Wm. C. Hunter
He felt himself a procession of adjectives exploding in the ears of strangers.Erik Dorn
- a word imputing a characteristic to a noun or pronoun
- (as modifier)an adjective phrase Abbreviation: adj
- additional or dependent
- (of law) relating to court practice and procedure, as opposed to the principles of law dealt with by the courtsCompare substantive (def. 7)
Word Origin and History for adjectives
late 14c., as an adjective, "adjectival," in noun adjective, from Old French adjectif (14c.), from Latin adjectivum "that is added to (the noun)," neuter of adjectivus "added," from past participle of adicere "to throw or place (a thing) near," from ad- "to" (see ad-) + comb. form of iacere "to throw" (see jet (v.)). Also as a noun from late 14c. (adjectives not clearly distinguished from nouns in Middle English). In 19c. Britain, the word itself often was a euphemism for the taboo adjective bloody.
They ... slept until it was cool enough to go out with their 'Towny,' whose vocabulary contained less than six hundred words, and the Adjective. [Kipling, "Soldiers Three," 1888]