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See more synonyms for abortive on Thesaurus.com
  1. failing to succeed; unsuccessful: an abortive rebellion; an abortive scheme.
  2. born prematurely.
  3. imperfectly developed; rudimentary.
  4. Medicine/Medical.
    1. producing or intended to produce abortion; abortifacient.
    2. acting to halt progress of a disease.
  5. Pathology. (of the course of a disease) short and mild without the usual, pronounced clinical symptoms.
  6. Botany. (of seeds or pollen grains) imperfect; unable to germinate.
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Origin of abortive

First recorded in 1300–50; Middle English word from Latin word abortīvus. See abort, -ive
Related formsa·bor·tive·ly, adverba·bor·tive·ness, nounnon·a·bort·ive, adjectivenon·a·bort·ive·ly, adverbnon·a·bort·ive·ness, nounun·a·bor·tive, adjectiveun·a·bor·tive·ly, adverbun·a·bor·tive·ness, noun


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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for abortive

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • And yet it was ministered to, in a dull and abortive manner, by all who made this feint.

  • Thus the efforts of Malique proved as abortive as the ravings of his master.

    Gomez Arias

    Joaqun Telesforo de Trueba y Coso

  • They are abortive births of an imperfect or vitiated instinct.

    Essays, First Series

    Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • And as passive resistance was their attitude, his purging scheme was abortive.

    England and Germany

    Emile Joseph Dillon

  • There had been in the early part of the day an abortive effort at a procession.

    Jack Hinton

    Charles James Lever

British Dictionary definitions for abortive


  1. failing to achieve a purpose; fruitless
  2. (of organisms) imperfectly developed; rudimentary
  3. causing abortion; abortifacient
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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 abortive


late 14c., "born prematurely or dead," from Latin abortivus "pertaining to miscarriage; causing abortion," from abort-, past participle stem of aboriri "disappear, miscarry," from ab- "amiss" (see ab-) + oriri "appear, be born, arise" (see orchestra); the compound word used in Latin for deaths, miscarriages, sunsets, etc. The Latin verb for "to produce an abortion" was abigo, literally "to drive away." Not originally used to imply forced or deliberate miscarriage; from 14c.-18c. stillborn children or domestic animals were said to be abortive. Also see abortion. Related: Abortiveness.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

abortive in Medicine


  1. Not reaching completion, as of a disease subsiding before it has finished its course.
  2. Partially or imperfectly developed; rudimentary.
  3. Abortifacient.
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Related formsa•bortive•ly adv.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.