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[dih-riv-uh-tiv] /dɪˈrɪv ə tɪv/
not original; secondary.
something that has been derived.
Also called derived form. Grammar. a form that has undergone derivation from another, as atomic from atom.
Chemistry. a substance or compound obtained from, or regarded as derived from, another substance or compound.
Also called differential quotient; especially British, differential coefficient. Mathematics. the limit of the ratio of the increment of a function to the increment of a variable in it, as the latter tends to 0; the instantaneous change of one quantity with respect to another, as velocity, which is the instantaneous change of distance with respect to time.
a financial contract whose value derives from the value of underlying stocks, bonds, currencies, commodities, etc.
Origin of derivative
late Middle English
1400-50; late Middle English derivatif < Late Latin dērīvātīvus, equivalent to Latin dērīvāt(us) (see derivation) + -īvus -ive
Related forms
derivatively, adverb
derivativeness, noun
nonderivative, adjective, noun
nonderivatively, adverb
underivative, adjective
underivatively, adverb Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for derivative
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Marriage for money is the modern form or derivative of marriage by purchase.

    The Sexual Question August Forel
  • The use of a Greek derivative gives notice that you are scientific.

    The Book-Hunter

    John Hill Burton
  • Thus the tetracetate is a derivative to be reckoned with in the problem.

  • And this is equivalent to admitting the doctrine of "derivative creation."

    On the Genesis of Species St. George Mivart
  • The English language has no derivative noun from "mores," and no equivalent for it.


    William Graham Sumner
British Dictionary definitions for derivative


resulting from derivation; derived
based on or making use of other sources; not original or primary
copied from others, esp slavishly; plagiaristic
a term, idea, etc, that is based on or derived from another in the same class
a word derived from another word
(chem) a compound that is formed from, or can be regarded as formed from, a structurally related compound: chloroform is a derivative of methane
  1. Also called differential coefficient, first derivative. the change of a function, f(x), with respect to an infinitesimally small change in the independent variable, x; the limit of [f(a + Δx)–f(a)]/Δx, at x = a, as the increment, Δx, tends to 0. Symbols: df(x)/dx, f′(x), Df(x): the derivative of xn is nxn–1
  2. the rate of change of one quantity with respect to another: velocity is the derivative of distance with respect to time
(finance) a financial instrument, such as a futures contract or option, the price of which is largely determined by the commodity, currency, share price, interest rate, etc, to which it is linked
(psychoanal) an activity that represents the expression of hidden impulses and desires by channelling them into socially acceptable forms
Derived Forms
derivatively, adverb
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 derivative

early 15c. (adj.); mid-15c. (n.), from Middle French dérivatif (15c.), from Late Latin derivat-, past participle stem of Latin derivare (see derive). Mathematical sense is from 1670s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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derivative in Medicine

derivative de·riv·a·tive (dĭ-rĭv'ə-tĭv)

  1. Something obtained or produced by modification of something else.

  2. A chemical compound that may be produced from another compound of similar structure in one or more steps.

Resulting from, characterized by, or employing derivation.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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derivative in Science
In calculus, the slope of the tangent line to a curve at a particular point on the curve. Since a curve represents a function, its derivative can also be thought of as the rate of change of the corresponding function at the given point. Derivatives are computed using differentiation.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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