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[dih-stingk-tiv] /dɪˈstɪŋk tɪv/
serving to distinguish; characteristic; distinguishing:
the distinctive stripes of the zebra.
having a special quality, style, attractiveness, etc.; notable.
Origin of distinctive
1575-85; < Medieval Latin distinctīvus, equivalent to Latin distinct(us) distinct + -īvus -ive
Related forms
distinctively, adverb
distinctiveness, noun
subdistinctive, adjective
subdistinctively, adverb
subdistinctiveness, noun
Can be confused
1. individual. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for distinctive
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The distinctive principle of the book was that the State had a conscience.

    The Grand Old Man Richard B. Cook
  • They have a distinctive flavor that is agreeable to most persons.

    Woman's Institute Library of Cookery, Vol. 2 Woman's Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences
  • She was speaking again with that mental clarity which was distinctive in her.

    Within the Law Marvin Dana
  • The absence of distinctive dress has, no doubt, something to do with it.

    The Uncommercial Traveller Charles Dickens
  • There were other Sinn Feiners with him, but he was the most distinctive.

    Changing Winds

    St. John G. Ervine
British Dictionary definitions for distinctive


serving or tending to distinguish
denoting one of a set of minimal features of a phoneme in a given language that serve to distinguish it from other phonemes. The distinctive features of /p/ in English are that it is voiceless, bilabial, non-nasal, and plosive; /b/ is voiced, bilabial, non-nasal, and plosive: the two differ by the distinctive feature of voice
Derived Forms
distinctively, adverb
distinctiveness, noun
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 distinctive

early 15c., from Old French distinctif and directly from Medieval Latin distinctivus, from Latin distinct-, past participle of distinguere (see distinguish). Meaning "markedly individual" is from 1580s. Related: Distinctively; distinctiveness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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