1. that prescribes; giving directions or injunctions: a prescriptive letter from an anxious father.
  2. depending on or arising from effective legal prescription, as a right or title established by a long unchallenged tenure.

Origin of prescriptive

1740–50; prescript + -ive, modeled on descriptive, etc.
Related formspre·scrip·tive·ly, adverbpre·scrip·tive·ness, nounnon·pre·scrip·tive, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for non-prescriptive


  1. making or giving directions, rules, or injunctions
  2. sanctioned by long-standing usage or custom
  3. derived from or based upon legal prescriptiona prescriptive title
Derived Formsprescriptively, adverbprescriptiveness, 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 non-prescriptive



1748, from Late Latin praescriptivus, from praescript-, past participle stem of praescribere (see prescription). Or formed in English from archaic prescript "a direction" (1530s), from Latin praescriptum.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper