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[pas-iv] /ˈpæs ɪv/
not reacting visibly to something that might be expected to produce manifestations of an emotion or feeling.
not participating readily or actively; inactive:
a passive member of a committee.
not involving visible reaction or active participation:
to play a passive role.
inert or quiescent.
influenced, acted upon, or affected by some external force, cause, or agency; being the object of action rather than causing action (opposed to active).
receiving or characterized by the reception of impressions or influences from external sources.
produced or caused by an external agency.
receiving, enduring, or submitting without resistance:
a passive hypnotic subject.
  1. noting a voice in the inflection of the verb in some languages which is used to indicate that the subject undergoes the action of the verb. Latin portātur, “he, she, or it is carried,” is in the passive voice.
  2. noting or pertaining to a construction similar to this in meaning, as English He is carried (opposed to active).
Chemistry. inactive, especially under conditions in which chemical activity is to be expected.
Metallurgy. (of a metal) treated so as to impart impassivity.
Medicine/Medical. of or relating to certain unhealthy but dormant conditions; inactive, as opposed to active or spontaneous.
Telecommunications. designed to relay signals without electronic devices:
a passive communications satellite.
(of a solar heating system) accumulating and distributing solar heat without the aid of machinery.
noun, Grammar.
the passive voice.
a passive form or construction.
Origin of passive
1350-1400; Middle English < Latin passīvus literally, submissive, equivalent to pass(us) (past participle of patī to experience, undergo, submit) + -īvus -ive
Related forms
passively, adverb
quasi-passive, adjective
quasi-passively, adverb
semipassive, adjective
semipassively, adverb
semipassiveness, noun
unpassive, adjective
unpassively, adverb
Can be confused
aggressive, passive.
8. submissive, unresisting.
1–3. active. 8. recalcitrant. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for passive
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • When he was at an end of the reading, he regarded the passive woman at the desk with a new respect.

    Within the Law Marvin Dana
  • passive, patient, long-suffering she had been the while the mortifications and slights were for herself.

    In the Valley Harold Frederic
  • And there was a passive congeniality between them, besides this active one.

    Little Dorrit Charles Dickens
  • We ask for nothing but passive co-operation--that is, a free passage for our troops.

    Freeland Theodor Hertzka
  • Memory is passive, and consequently memory is a species of passion.

British Dictionary definitions for passive


not active or not participating perceptibly in an activity, organization, etc
unresisting and receptive to external forces; submissive
not working or operating
affected or acted upon by an external object or force
(grammar) denoting a voice of verbs in sentences in which the grammatical subject is not the logical subject but rather the recipient of the action described by the verb, as was broken in the sentence The glass was broken by a boy Compare active (sense 5a)
(chem) (of a substance, esp a metal) apparently chemically unreactive, usually as a result of the formation of a thin protective layer that prevents further reaction
(electronics, telecomm)
  1. containing no source of power and therefore capable only of attenuating a signal: a passive network
  2. not capable of amplifying a signal or controlling a function: a passive communications satellite
(finance) (of a bond, share, debt, etc) yielding no interest
  1. the passive voice
  2. a passive verb
Derived Forms
passively, adverb
passivity, passiveness, noun
Word Origin
C14: from Latin passīvus susceptible of suffering, from patī to undergo
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 passive

late 14c., in grammatical sense (opposed to active), Old French passif "suffering, undergoing hardship" (14c.) and directly from Latin passivus "capable of feeling or suffering," from pass-, past participle stem of pati "to suffer" (see passion). Meaning "not active" is first recorded late 15c.; sense of "enduring suffering without resistance" is from 1620s. Related: Passively. Passive resistance first attested 1819 in Scott's "Ivanhoe," used throughout 19c.; re-coined by Gandhi c.1906 in South Africa. Passive-aggressive with reference to behavior is attested by 1971.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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passive in Medicine

passive pas·sive (pās'ĭv)

  1. Accepting or submitting without resistance or objection.

  2. Of or being an inactive or submissive role in a relationship, especially a sexual relationship.

  3. Chemically unreactive except under special or extreme conditions; inert.

pas'sive·ly adv.
pas'sive·ness n.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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