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  1. something that preserves or tends to preserve.
  2. a chemical substance used to preserve foods or other organic materials from decomposition or fermentation.
  1. tending to preserve.

Origin of preservative

1350–1400; Middle English (adj. and noun) < Middle French preservatif (adj.) < Medieval Latin praeservātīvus. See preserve, -ative
Related formsnon·pre·serv·a·tive, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for preservative


  1. something that preserves or tends to preserve, esp a chemical added to foods to inhibit decomposition
  1. tending or intended to preserve
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

Word Origin and History for preservative


late 14c., from Old French preservatif and directly from Medieval Latin praeservativus, from stem of praeservare (see preserve (v.)). The noun is from early 15c., "a preservative medication;" sense of "chemical added to foods to keep them from rotting" is from 1875.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

preservative in Medicine


  1. A substance added to food products or to organic solutions to prevent decomposition due to chemical change or bacterial action.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.