[ ik-sploi-tuh-tiv ]
/ ɪkˈsplɔɪ tə tɪv /
Save This Word!

taking unfair or unethical advantage of a person, group, or situation for the purpose of profit, comfort, or advancement: Her success attracted too many exploitative relatives to count.
In effect, this quiz will prove whether or not you have the skills to know the difference between “affect” and “effect.”
Question 1 of 7
The rainy weather could not ________ my elated spirits on my graduation day.
Meet Grammar CoachWrite or paste your essay, email, or story into Grammar Coach and get grammar helpImprove Your Writing
Meet Grammar CoachImprove Your Writing
Write or paste your essay, email, or story into Grammar Coach and get grammar help
Also ex·ploit·ive [ik-sploi-tiv] /ɪkˈsplɔɪ tɪv/ . Sometimes ex·ploit·a·to·ry [ik-sploi-tuh-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee] /ɪkˈsplɔɪ təˌtɔr i, -ˌtoʊr i/ .

Origin of exploitative

First recorded in 1890–95; exploit2 + -ative

OTHER WORDS FROM exploitative

ex·ploit·a·tive·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does exploitative mean?

Exploitative is an adjective that describes someone or something that selfishly takes advantage of someone or a group of people in order to profit from them or otherwise benefit.

It comes from the verb exploit, which commonly means to take advantage in such a way. The act of doing so is exploitation.

As a verb, exploit can also be used in a more neutral way that doesn’t imply selfishness: to make the best use of something, especially an opportunity, or to create a profit or other benefit. But when the verb is applied to people, it is always used negatively.

Exploitative is only ever used negatively, and it always implies greed, selfishness, or unethical practices. It’s often used in the context of the exploitation of workers by businesses, especially in phrases like exploitative practices. 

Other, less common variations of exploitative are exploitive and exploitatory.

Example: The article exposes many of the industry’s exploitative business practices.

Where does exploitative come from?

The first records of the word exploitative come from the late 1800s. Its base word, exploit, is recorded much earlier and derives from the Latin explicātus, meaning “unfolded” or “set forth.” It wasn’t until around the 1800s that exploit started to be used to refer to extracting natural resources from the earth, and then to using someone or something for one’s own selfish ends.

Exploitative is most often used in the context of taking advantage of people. It is especially used to refer to the exploitation of workers by businesses that underpay and overwork them, or that take advantage of them in other ways. Such actions are often called exploitative practices. Exploitative often implies that it’s being done by people who are in positions of power to those without power. Poor people and people of color are often targets of such exploitation.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to exploitative?

  • exploitive (adjective)
  • exploitatory (adjective)
  • exploitatively (adverb)
  • exploit (verb)

What are some words that share a root or word element with exploitative


What are some words that often get used in discussing exploitative?


How is exploitative used in real life?

Exploit and exploitation can be used negatively or neutrally, but exploitative is always used in a negative way. It’s usually used in the context of people who are being exploited for profit.



Try using exploitative!

True or False? 

The word exploitative can be used in a positive way.

How to use exploitative in a sentence