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[suh b-trak-tiv] /səbˈtræk tɪv/
tending to subtract; having power to subtract.
Mathematics. (of a quantity) that is to be subtracted; having the minus sign (−).
Origin of subtractive
First recorded in 1680-90; subtract + -ive
Related forms
nonsubtractive, adjective
nonsubtractively, adverb
unsubtractive, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for subtractive
Historical Examples
  • These quantities are additive for years after 1800, and subtractive for years before that epoch.

    Astrology Sepharial
  • The first number should be additive, the second subtractive, etc.

    Visual Signaling Signal Corps United States Army
  • The colors produced by adding lights are based not on the "subtractive" method but on the actual addition of colors.

    Artificial Light M. Luckiesh
  • These primaries are red, green, and blue and it will be noted that they are the complementaries of the "subtractive" primaries.

    Artificial Light M. Luckiesh
  • The additive and subtractive methods are chiefly involved, but there is another method which is an "averaging" additive one.

    Artificial Light M. Luckiesh
  • In Eastern culture, meaning is based on subtractive mechanisms, similar to those of mixing light.

  • The correction is additive for all temperatures above 62°, and subtractive for temperatures below 62°.

  • The correction is additive for temperatures above 62°, and subtractive for temperatures below 62°.

  • The chief mixtures of two of the "additive" primaries produce the "subtractive" primaries.

    Artificial Light M. Luckiesh
British Dictionary definitions for subtractive


able or tending to remove or subtract
indicating or requiring subtraction; having a minus sign: –x is a subtractive quantity
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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subtractive in Science
  1. Relating to the production of color by the blocking or removal of varying wavelengths, as with colored filters, or by the mixing of pigments that absorb certain wavelengths and reflect others. ◇ The subtractive primaries cyan, magenta, and yellow are those colors whose wavelengths can be filtered or absorbed in different proportions to produce all other colors. Compare additive. See Note at color.

  2. Marked by or involving subtraction.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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