Origin of positive

1250–1300; < Latin positīvus; replacing Middle English positif < Middle French < Latin, as above. See posit, -ive
Related formspos·i·tive·ness, nouno·ver·pos·i·tive, adjectiveo·ver·pos·i·tive·ly, adverbo·ver·pos·i·tive·ness, nounqua·si-pos·i·tive, adjectivequa·si-pos·i·tive·ly, adverbsu·per·pos·i·tive, adjectivesu·per·pos·i·tive·ly, adverbsu·per·pos·i·tive·ness, nounun·pos·i·tive, adjectiveun·pos·i·tive·ly, adverbun·pos·i·tive·ness, noun

Synonyms for positive

Antonyms for positive

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for positive

Contemporary Examples of positive

Historical Examples of positive

British Dictionary definitions for positive



characterized by or expressing certainty or affirmationa positive answer
composed of or possessing actual or specific qualities; reala positive benefit
tending to emphasize what is good or laudable; constructivehe takes a very positive attitude when correcting pupils' mistakes
tending towards progress or improvement; moving in a beneficial direction
  1. constructive rather than sceptical
  2. (of a concept) denoting the presence rather than the absence of some property
independent of circumstances; absolute or unqualified
(prenominal) informal (intensifier)a positive delight
  1. having a value greater than zeroa positive number
  2. designating, consisting of, or graduated in one or more quantities greater than zeropositive direction
  1. measured in a direction opposite to that regarded as negative
  2. having the same magnitude as but opposite sense to an equivalent negative quantity
grammar denoting the usual form of an adjective as opposed to its comparative or superlative form
biology indicating movement or growth towards a particular stimulus
  1. (of an electric charge) having an opposite polarity to the charge of an electron and the same polarity as the charge of a proton
  2. (of a body, system, ion, etc) having a positive electric charge; having a deficiency of electronsa positive ion
  3. (of a point in an electric circuit) having a higher electric potential than some other point with an assigned zero potential
short for electropositive
(of a lens) capable of causing convergence of a parallel beam of light
med (of the results of an examination or test) indicating the existence or presence of a suspected disorder or pathogenic organism
med (of the effect of a drug or therapeutic regimen) beneficial or satisfactory
short for Rh positive
(of a machine part) having precise motion with no hysteresis or backlash
mainly US (of a government) directly involved in activities beyond the minimum maintenance of law and order, such as social welfare or the organization of scientific research
economics of or denoting an analysis that is free of ethical, political, or value judgments
astrology of, relating to, or governed by the group of signs of the zodiac that belong to the air and fire classifications, which are associated with a self-expressive spontaneous nature


something that is positive
maths a quantity greater than zero
photog a print or slide showing a photographic image whose colours or tones correspond to those of the original subject
grammar the positive degree of an adjective or adverb
a positive object, such as a terminal or plate in a voltaic cell
  1. Also called: positive organa medieval nonportable organ with one manual and no pedalsCompare portative organ
  2. a variant spelling of positif
Compare negative
Derived Formspositiveness or positivity, noun

Word Origin for positive

C13: from Late Latin positīvus positive, agreed on an arbitrary basis, from pōnere to place
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 positive

early 14c., originally a legal term meaning "formally laid down," from Old French positif (13c.) and directly from Latin positivus "settled by agreement, positive" (opposed to naturalis "natural"), from positus, past participle of ponere "put, place" (see position (n.)).

Sense of "absolute" is from mid-15c. Meaning in philosophy of "dealing only with facts" is from 1590s. Sense broadened to "expressed without qualification" (1590s), then "confident in opinion" (1660s); mathematical use is from 1704; in electricity, 1755. Psychological sense of "concentrating on what is constructive and good" is recorded from 1916.


1520s, from positive (adj.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for positive




Characterized by or displaying certainty, acceptance, or affirmation.
Indicating the presence of a particular disease, condition, or organism.
Indicating or characterized by response or motion toward the source of a stimulus, such as light.
Relating to or designating electric charge of a sign opposite to that of an electron.
Related formspos′i•tivi•ty n.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Science definitions for positive



Greater than zero.
Having an electric charge or voltage greater than zero.
Indicating the presence of a disease, condition, or organism, as a diagnostic test.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.