• synonyms


  1. habitually or characteristically accepting or tolerant of something, as social behavior or linguistic usage, that others might disapprove or forbid.
  2. granting or denoting permission: a permissive nod.
  3. optional.
  4. Genetics. (of a cell) permitting replication of a strand of DNA that could be lethal, as a viral segment or mutant gene.
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Origin of permissive

1425–75; late Middle English; see permission, -ive; compare French permissif
Related formsper·mis·sive·ly, adverbper·mis·sive·ness, nounnon·per·mis·sive, adjectivenon·per·mis·sive·ly, adverbnon·per·mis·sive·ness, nounun·per·mis·sive, adjective


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for permissively

Historical Examples

  • These take thought, at least ostensibly or permissively, for the temporal welfare of the laity, as well as for their own.

    The Theory of the Leisure Class

    Thorstein Veblen

British Dictionary definitions for permissively


  1. tolerant; lenientpermissive parents
  2. indulgent in matters of sexa permissive society
  3. granting permission
  4. archaic not obligatory
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Derived Formspermissively, adverbpermissiveness, 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 permissively



c.1600, "allowing to pass through," from Old French permissif, from Latin permiss-, past participle stem of permittere "to let go, let pass, let loose" (see permit (v.)). In sense of "tolerant, liberal" it is first recorded 1956; by 1966 it had definite overtones of sexual freedom. Earlier it meant "permitted, allowed" (early 15c.). Related: Permissively; permissiveness.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper