noun Grammar.

the passive voice.
a passive form or construction.

Origin of passive

1350–1400; Middle English < Latin passīvus literally, submissive, equivalent to pass(us) (past participle of patī to experience, undergo, submit) + -īvus -ive
Related formspas·sive·ly, adverbqua·si-pas·sive, adjectivequa·si-pas·sive·ly, adverbsem·i·pas·sive, adjectivesem·i·pas·sive·ly, adverbsem·i·pas·sive·ness, nounun·pas·sive, adjectiveun·pas·sive·ly, adverb
Can be confusedaggressive passive

Synonyms for passive

Antonyms for passive

1–3. active. 8. recalcitrant. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for passive

Contemporary Examples of passive

Historical Examples of passive

  • When he was at an end of the reading, he regarded the passive woman at the desk with a new respect.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • Passive, patient, long-suffering she had been the while the mortifications and slights were for herself.

    In the Valley

    Harold Frederic

  • And there was a passive congeniality between them, besides this active one.

    Little Dorrit

    Charles Dickens

  • We ask for nothing but passive co-operation--that is, a free passage for our troops.


    Theodor Hertzka

  • Similarly, the association of ideas is passive, and in consequence is a kind of passion.

British Dictionary definitions for passive



not active or not participating perceptibly in an activity, organization, etc
unresisting and receptive to external forces; submissive
not working or operating
affected or acted upon by an external object or force
grammar denoting a voice of verbs in sentences in which the grammatical subject is not the logical subject but rather the recipient of the action described by the verb, as was broken in the sentence The glass was broken by a boyCompare active (def. 5a)
chem (of a substance, esp a metal) apparently chemically unreactive, usually as a result of the formation of a thin protective layer that prevents further reaction
electronics telecomm
  1. containing no source of power and therefore capable only of attenuating a signala passive network
  2. not capable of amplifying a signal or controlling a functiona passive communications satellite
finance (of a bond, share, debt, etc) yielding no interest


  1. the passive voice
  2. a passive verb
Derived Formspassively, adverbpassivity or passiveness, noun

Word Origin for passive

C14: from Latin passīvus susceptible of suffering, from patī to undergo
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 passive

late 14c., in grammatical sense (opposed to active), Old French passif "suffering, undergoing hardship" (14c.) and directly from Latin passivus "capable of feeling or suffering," from pass-, past participle stem of pati "to suffer" (see passion). Meaning "not active" is first recorded late 15c.; sense of "enduring suffering without resistance" is from 1620s. Related: Passively. Passive resistance first attested 1819 in Scott's "Ivanhoe," used throughout 19c.; re-coined by Gandhi c.1906 in South Africa. Passive-aggressive with reference to behavior is attested by 1971.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for passive




Accepting or submitting without resistance or objection.
Of or being an inactive or submissive role in a relationship, especially a sexual relationship.
Chemically unreactive except under special or extreme conditions; inert.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.