serving to distinguish; characteristic; distinguishing: the distinctive stripes of the zebra.
having a special quality, style, attractiveness, etc.; notable.

Origin of distinctive

1575–85; < Medieval Latin distinctīvus, equivalent to Latin distinct(us) distinct + -īvus -ive
Related formsdis·tinc·tive·ly, adverbdis·tinc·tive·ness, nounsub·dis·tinc·tive, adjectivesub·dis·tinc·tive·ly, adverbsub·dis·tinc·tive·ness, noun
Can be confuseddistinctive distinguishable distinguished

Synonyms for distinctive

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for distinctive

Contemporary Examples of distinctive

Historical Examples of distinctive

  • The distinctive principle of the book was that the State had a conscience.

    The Grand Old Man

    Richard B. Cook

  • They have a distinctive flavor that is agreeable to most persons.

    Woman's Institute Library of Cookery, Vol. 2

    Woman's Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences

  • She was speaking again with that mental clarity which was distinctive in her.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • The absence of distinctive dress has, no doubt, something to do with it.

  • There were other Sinn Feiners with him, but he was the most distinctive.

    Changing Winds

    St. John G. Ervine

British Dictionary definitions for distinctive



serving or tending to distinguish
denoting one of a set of minimal features of a phoneme in a given language that serve to distinguish it from other phonemes. The distinctive features of /p/ in English are that it is voiceless, bilabial, non-nasal, and plosive; /b/ is voiced, bilabial, non-nasal, and plosive: the two differ by the distinctive feature of voice
Derived Formsdistinctively, adverbdistinctiveness, 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

Word Origin and History for distinctive

early 15c., from Old French distinctif and directly from Medieval Latin distinctivus, from Latin distinct-, past participle of distinguere (see distinguish). Meaning "markedly individual" is from 1580s. Related: Distinctively; distinctiveness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper