[ ur-guh-tiv ]

  1. Grammar.

    • (in certain languages, as Basque, Inuit, and some Caucasian languages) noting a case that indicates the subject of a transitive verb and is distinct from the case indicating the subject of an intransitive verb.

    • similar to such a case in function or meaning, especially in indicating an agent, as the subject She in She opened the door, in contrast to the subject The door in The door opened.

  2. Linguistics. pertaining to a type of language that has an ergative case or in which the direct object of a transitive verb has the same form as the subject of an intransitive verb.: Compare accusative (def. 2).

  1. the ergative case.

  2. a word in the ergative case.

  1. a form or construction of similar function or meaning.

Origin of ergative

First recorded in 1945–50; from Greek ergát(ēs) “worker” (see ergate) + -ive

Other words from ergative

  • er·ga·tiv·i·ty [ur-guh-tiv-i-tee] /ˌɜr gəˈtɪv ɪ ti/ noun

Words Nearby ergative Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

British Dictionary definitions for ergative


/ (ˈɜːɡətɪv) linguistics /

  1. denoting a type of verb that takes the same noun as either direct object or as subject, with equivalent meaning. Thus, "fuse" is an ergative verb: "He fused the lights" and "The lights fused" have equivalent meaning

  2. denoting a case of nouns in certain languages, for example, Inuktitut or Basque, marking a noun used interchangeably as either the direct object of a transitive verb or the subject of an intransitive verb

  1. denoting a language that has ergative verbs or ergative nouns

  1. an ergative verb

  2. an ergative noun or case of nouns

Origin of ergative

C20: from Greek ergatēs a workman + -ive

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