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[ik-splan-uh-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee] /ɪkˈsplæn əˌtɔr i, -ˌtoʊr i/
serving to explain:
an explanatory footnote.
Sometimes, explanative
[ik-splan-uh-tiv] /ɪkˈsplæn ə tɪv/ (Show IPA)
Origin of explanatory
From the Late Latin word explānātōrius, dating back to 1610-20. See explain, -tory1
Related forms
explanatorily, explanatively, adverb
nonexplanative, adjective
nonexplanatory, adjective
preexplanatory, adjective
unexplanatory, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for explanatory
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • A letter, let it be ever so explanatory, will only leave them in suspense.

    The Channings Mrs. Henry Wood
  • I was in hopes of one moment, one explanatory word or look from Berenice.

  • And Emilio was no longer at hand to be explanatory if desired.

    A Spirit in Prison Robert Hichens
  • The answer, delivered by Mr. Dickens, was condescending and explanatory.

    Cap'n Warren's Wards Joseph C. Lincoln
  • Perhaps we may speak one explanatory word about it and let it go.

    Despair's Last Journey David Christie Murray
British Dictionary definitions for explanatory


/ɪkˈsplænətərɪ; -trɪ/
serving or intended to serve as an explanation
Derived Forms
explanatorily, 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 explanatory

1610s, from or modeled on Late Latin explanatorius "having to do with an explanation," from Latin explanat-, past participle stem of explanare (see explanation).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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