[poz-i-tuh-viz-uh m]
  1. the state or quality of being positive; definiteness; assurance.
  2. a philosophical system founded by Auguste Comte, concerned with positive facts and phenomena, and excluding speculation upon ultimate causes or origins.

Origin of positivism

First recorded in 1850–55; positive + -ism
Related formspos·i·tiv·ist, adjective, nounpos·i·tiv·is·tic, adjectivepos·i·tiv·is·ti·cal·ly, adverbnon·pos·i·tiv·is·tic, adjectiveun·pos·i·tiv·is·tic, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for positivist

Contemporary Examples of positivist

  • Which is precisely why complaints about BGU faculty not teaching enough of quantitative and “positivist” methods seem so hollow.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Israeli Academia: Crossing The Line?

    Bernard Avishai

    October 8, 2012

Historical Examples of positivist

British Dictionary definitions for positivist


  1. a strong form of empiricism, esp as established in the philosophical system of Auguste Comte, that rejects metaphysics and theology as seeking knowledge beyond the scope of experience, and holds that experimental investigation and observation are the only sources of substantial knowledgeSee also logical positivism
  2. Also called: legal positivism the jurisprudential doctrine that the legitimacy of a law depends on its being enacted in proper form, rather than on its contentCompare natural law (def. 3)
  3. the quality of being definite, certain, etc
Derived Formspositivist, noun, adjectivepositivistic, adjectivepositivistically, adverb
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 positivist



1847, the philosophy of Auguste Comte (1798-1857), who published "Philosophie positive" in 1830; see positive (adj.) in the "just the facts" sense + -ism. Related: Positivist; Positivistic.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

positivist in Culture


An approach to philosophy frequently found in the twentieth century. Positivists usually hold that all meaningful statements must be either logical inferences or sense descriptions, and they usually argue that the statements found in metaphysics, such as “Human beings are free” or “Human beings are not free,” are meaningless because they cannot possibly be verified by the senses.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.