1. of, consisting of, or using lines: linear design.
  2. pertaining to or represented by lines: linear dimensions.
  3. extended or arranged in a line: a linear series.
  4. involving measurement in one dimension only; pertaining to length: linear measure.
  5. of or relating to the characteristics of a work of art in which forms and rhythms are defined chiefly in terms of line.
  6. having the form of or resembling a line: linear nebulae.
  7. Mathematics.
    1. consisting of, involving, or describable by terms of the first degree.
    2. having the same effect on a sum as on each of the summands: a linear operation.
  8. Electronics. delivering an output that is directly proportional to the input: a linear circuit; a linear amplifier.
  9. threadlike; narrow and elongated: a linear leaf.

Origin of linear

First recorded in 1635–45, linear is from the Latin word līneāris of, belonging to lines. See line1, -ar1
Related formslin·e·ar·ly, adverbnon·lin·e·ar, adjectivesub·lin·e·ar, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for nonlinear

Contemporary Examples of nonlinear

  • Guillermo Arriaga (Babel, 21 Grams, The Burning Plain) employs a nonlinear style.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Benjamin Percy: How I Write

    Noah Charney

    June 5, 2013

  • Critics rediscovered Wuthering Heights, praising its complicated, nonlinear structure.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Battle of the Brontes

    Jennie Yabroff

    March 14, 2011

Historical Examples of nonlinear

  • The new stage corresponds to distributed, non-sequential forms of human activity, nonlinear dependencies.

  • The frequency distribution of breeding activity in birds is described by a nonlinear curve (a normal distribution is nonlinear).

    The Breeding Birds of Kansas

    Richard F. Johnston

  • Let us assume that each of the environmental variables is a nonlinear oscillator, as is probable.

    The Breeding Birds of Kansas

    Richard F. Johnston

British Dictionary definitions for nonlinear


  1. not of, in, along, or relating to a line
  2. denoting digital editing in which edits are saved on computer, rather than videotape, thus enabling further edits to be made


  1. of, in, along, or relating to a line
  2. of or relating to length
  3. resembling, represented by, or consisting of a line or lines
  4. having one dimension
  5. designating a style in the arts, esp painting, that obtains its effects through line rather than colour or light and in which the edges of forms and planes are sharply definedCompare painterly
  6. maths of or relating to the first degreea linear equation
  7. narrow and having parallel edgesa linear leaf
  8. electronics
    1. (of a circuit, etc) having an output that is directly proportional to inputlinear amplifier
    2. having components arranged in a line
Derived Formslinearity (ˌlɪnɪˈærɪtɪ), nounlinearly, adverb

Word Origin for linear

C17: from Latin līneāris of or by means of lines
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 nonlinear



1640s, from French linéaire, from Latin linearis "belonging to a line," from linea "string, line" (see line (n.)). Essentially the same word as lineal; "in Latin linearis the original suffix -alis was dissimilated to -aris, but in Late Latin this rule was no longer productive and the formation or re-formation in -alis remained unchanged." [Barnhart]. Linear A and Linear B (1902-3) were names given to two related forms of linear Minoan writing discovered 1894-1901 in Crete by Sir Arthur Evans.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

nonlinear in Medicine


  1. Of, relating to, or resembling a line; straight.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

nonlinear in Science


  1. Being or resembling a line.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.