1. having the quality of describing; characterized by description: a descriptive passage in an essay.
  2. Grammar.
    1. (of an adjective or other modifier) expressing a quality of the word it modifies, as fresh in fresh milk.Compare limiting(def 2).
    2. (of a clause) nonrestrictive.Compare restrictive(def 4).
  3. noting, concerned with, or based upon the fact or experience.
  4. characterized by or based upon the classification and description of material in a given field: descriptive botany.

Origin of descriptive

1745–55; < Late Latin dēscrīptīvus, equivalent to Latin dēscrīpt(us) (see description) + -īvus -ive
Related formsde·scrip·tive·ly, adverbde·scrip·tive·ness, nounnon·de·scrip·tive, adjectivenon·de·scrip·tive·ly, adverbnon·de·scrip·tive·ness, nouno·ver·de·scrip·tive, adjectiveo·ver·de·scrip·tive·ly, adverbo·ver·de·scrip·tive·ness, nounself-de·scrip·tive, adjectiveun·de·scrip·tive, adjectiveun·de·scrip·tive·ly, adverbun·de·scrip·tive·ness, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for nondescriptive


  1. characterized by or containing description; serving to describe
  2. grammar (of an adjective) serving to describe the referent of the noun modified, as for example the adjective brown as contrasted with my and former
  3. relating to or based upon description or classification rather than explanation or prescriptiondescriptive linguistics
Derived Formsdescriptively, adverbdescriptiveness, 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 nondescriptive



1751, from Late Latin descriptivus, from descript-, past participle stem of describere (see description). Related: Descriptively; descriptiveness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper