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[re-truh-spek-tiv] /ˌrɛ trəˈspɛk tɪv/
directed to the past; contemplative of past situations, events, etc.
looking or directed backward.
retroactive, as a statute.
an art exhibit showing an entire phase or representative examples of an artist's lifework.
any exhibition or series of showings or performances, as of musical works or motion pictures, representing the work of an artist or performer over all or a major part of a career:
a retrospective of John Ford's movies.
Origin of retrospective
1655-65; retrospect + -ive
Related forms
retrospectively, adverb
retrospectiveness, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for retrospectively
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • It looks as if she has arranged to charge us retrospectively by the hour for the stuff.

  • This also for a time, much at his leisure, Adam Verver retrospectively fixed.

    The Golden Bowl Henry James
  • retrospectively, Doctor Anstruther considered this historical revue of his fair patient as he sat facing her.

  • About the second subperiod she said retrospectively: "We were on a ship and we were 'most drowned."

    Benign Stupors August Hoch
  • Our contraband is a woman, and she comes upon the scene of action in this wise, retrospectively.

    Shoulder-Straps Henry Morford
  • retrospectively she said later she thought her brother was a cardinal.

    Benign Stupors August Hoch
  • And, retrospectively, the schools must be conceded to have done wonders.

    Travels in South Kensington Moncure Daniel Conway
  • retrospectively she said she wanted to see all her ancestors from the beginning of time.

    Benign Stupors August Hoch
British Dictionary definitions for retrospectively


looking or directed backwards, esp in time; characterized by retrospection
applying to the past; retroactive
an exhibition of an artist's life's work or a representative selection of it
Derived Forms
retrospectively, adverb
retrospectiveness, 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 retrospectively



1660s, from retrospect + -ive. As a noun, from 1964, short for retrospective exhibition (1908), etc. Related: Retrospectively.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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