[ ad-i-tiv ]
See synonyms for additive on
  1. something that is added, as one substance to another, to alter or improve the general quality or to counteract undesirable properties: an additive that thins paint.

  2. Nutrition.

    • Also called food additive. a substance added directly to food during processing, as for preservation, coloring, or stabilization.

    • something that becomes part of food or affects it as a result of packaging or processing, as debris or radiation.

  1. characterized or produced by addition; cumulative: an additive process.

  2. Mathematics. (of a function) having the property that the function of the union or sum of two quantities is equal to the sum of the functional values of each quantity; linear.

Origin of additive

From the Late Latin word additīvus, dating back to 1690–1700. See additament, -ive

Other words from additive

  • ad·di·tive·ly, adverb
  • in·ter·ad·di·tive, adjective
  • sub·ad·di·tive, adjective
  • sub·ad·di·tive·ly, adverb Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use additive in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for additive


/ (ˈædɪtɪv) /

  1. characterized or produced by addition; cumulative

  1. any substance added to something to improve it, prevent deterioration, etc

  2. short for food additive

Origin of additive

C17: from Late Latin additīvus, from addere to add

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

Scientific definitions for additive


[ ădĭ-tĭv ]

  1. A substance added in small amounts to something else to improve, strengthen, or otherwise alter it. Additives are used for a variety of reasons. They are added to food, for example, to enhance taste or color or to prevent spoilage. They are added to gasoline to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, and to plastics to enhance molding capability.

  1. Relating to the production of color by the mixing of light rays of varying wavelengths.♦ The additive primaries red, green, and blue are those colors whose wavelengths can be mixed in different proportions to produce all other spectral colors. Compare subtractive. See Note at color.

  2. Mathematics Marked by, produced by, or involving addition.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.