[ fri-kwen-tuh-tiv ]

    • a verb aspect expressing frequent repeated action.

    • an affix, particle, or verb expressing this aspect, such as the suffix -er in scamper, or the verb trample, from tramp.

    • designating or relating to a verb aspect expressing frequent repeated action.

    • designating an affix, particle, or verb that expresses this aspect: in English, -le and -er are frequentative suffixes, and sparkle and shiver are frequentative verbs.

Origin of frequentative

First recorded in 1520–30; from Latin frequentātīvus “repetitive, repeating an act,” from frequentāt(us) “visited often” (past participle of frequentāre “to crowd, visit often,” verb derivative of frequēns “crowded, full, repeated”; see frequent) + -īvus -ive

Grammar notes for frequentative

Frequentative in linguistics and grammar refers to a verb expressing repeated, frequent action. Frequentative verbs in English end in -er and -le (as bobble from bob, curdle from curd, dazzle from daze, slither from slide, sparkle from spark, and trample from tramp ). English frequentative verbs are a closed set, and English no longer produces frequentative verbs with these suffixes. Instead, in contemporary English the frequentative aspect is usually expressed by the plain present tense of the verb, e.g., “I walk to work (usually),” which describes a habitual action, as opposed to the present progressive “I am walking to work (right now).”
In Latin, however, frequentative verbs are common in all periods. Frequentatives occur very frequently in the comedies of Plautus and Terence, in Cicero’s letters, and in the Satyricon of Petronius. Latin frequentative verbs often do not differ in meaning from simple verbs, and they often replace the original simple verbs in Romance languages (languages descended from Latin) because the frequentatives are perfectly regular whereas the simple verbs may be somewhat or very irregular.
In Latin, frequentatives are formed from the suffixes -tāre, -itāre, -sāre added to the past participle of the simple verb. For instance, the simple verb canō, canere, cecinī, cantus “I sing, to sing, I have sung, sung” would be a regular verb of the third conjugation (whose present infinitive is marked by -ere ) except for the third principal part, cecinī (from an unattested kekanai, a reduplicated perfect inherited from Proto-Indo-European). To the inflectional stem cant- of the past participle cantus, Latin adds the suffix -tāre (reduced to -āre after the preceding t ) resulting in the absolutely regular first conjugation verb canto, cantāre, cantāvī, cantātus (compare Italian canto, cantare, cantai, cantato ). Cantāre becomes cantare in Italian, cantar in Spanish and Portuguese, and chanter in French.

Other words from frequentative

  • un·fre·quen·ta·tive, adjective

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

How to use frequentative in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for frequentative


/ (frɪˈkwɛntətɪv) grammar /

  1. denoting an aspect of verbs in some languages used to express repeated or habitual action

  2. (in English) denoting a verb or an affix having meaning that involves repeated or habitual action, such as the verb wrestle, from wrest

    • a frequentative verb or affix

    • the frequentative aspect of verbs

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