1. pertaining to the principle of electing to an office, position, etc.
  2. chosen by election, as an official.
  3. bestowed by or derived from election, as an office.
  4. having the power or right of electing to office, as a body of persons.
  5. open to choice; optional; not required: an elective subject in college; elective surgery.
  6. Chemistry. selecting for combination or action; tending to combine with certain substances in preference to others: elective attraction.
  1. an optional study; a course that a student may select from among alternatives.

Origin of elective

1520–30; < Medieval Latin ēlēctīvus, equivalent to Latin ēlēct(us) (see elect) + -īvus -ive
Related formse·lec·tive·ly, adverbe·lec·tive·ness, nounnon·e·lec·tive, adjective, nounnon·e·lec·tive·ly, adverbnon·e·lec·tive·ness, nounpre·e·lec·tive, adjectiveun·e·lec·tive, adjective

Synonyms for elective

Antonyms for elective

5. required, obligatory, necessary.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for electively

Historical Examples of electively

  • Her sweet slenderness barred the way about as electively as a mother quail does the road to her young.

    A Texas Ranger

    William MacLeod Raine

British Dictionary definitions for electively


  1. of or based on selection by voteelective procedure
  2. selected by votean elective official
  3. having the power to elect
  4. open to choice; optionalan elective course of study
  1. an optional course or hospital placement undertaken by a medical student
Derived Formselectively, adverbelectivity (ˌiːlɛkˈtɪvɪtɪ) or electiveness, 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 electively



early 15c., from Late Latin electivus, from electus, past participle of eligere (see election). In reference to school subjects studied at the student's choice, first recorded 1847. As a noun, from 1701.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper