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[per-mis-iv] /pərˈmɪs ɪv/
habitually or characteristically accepting or tolerant of something, as social behavior or linguistic usage, that others might disapprove or forbid.
granting or denoting permission:
a permissive nod.
Genetics. (of a cell) permitting replication of a strand of DNA that could be lethal, as a viral segment or mutant gene.
Origin of permissive
late Middle English
1425-75; late Middle English; see permission, -ive; compare French permissif
Related forms
permissively, adverb
permissiveness, noun
nonpermissive, adjective
nonpermissively, adverb
nonpermissiveness, noun
unpermissive, adjective
1. indulgent, lenient, lax. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for permissive
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Therefore the poet is not any permissive potentate, but is emperor in his own right.

    Essays, Second Series Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • She smiled at last, with permissive recognition, and Gates came forward.

    Annie Kilburn William Dean Howells
  • Instead of being compulsory the Act, should an Act be passed, was to be permissive.

  • Therefore the consequent will of God, which has sin for its object, is only permissive.

    Theodicy G. W. Leibniz
  • There is precisely the case wherein the will of a wise mind is only permissive.

    Theodicy G. W. Leibniz
British Dictionary definitions for permissive


tolerant; lenient: permissive parents
indulgent in matters of sex: a permissive society
granting permission
(archaic) not obligatory
Derived Forms
permissively, adverb
permissiveness, 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 permissive

c.1600, "allowing to pass through," from Old French permissif, from Latin permiss-, past participle stem of permittere "to let go, let pass, let loose" (see permit (v.)). In sense of "tolerant, liberal" it is first recorded 1956; by 1966 it had definite overtones of sexual freedom. Earlier it meant "permitted, allowed" (early 15c.). Related: Permissively; permissiveness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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