something that preserves or tends to preserve.
a chemical substance used to preserve foods or other organic materials from decomposition or fermentation.


tending to preserve.

Origin of preservative

1350–1400; Middle English (adj. and noun) < Middle French preservatif (adj.) < Medieval Latin praeservātīvus. See preserve, -ative
Related formsnon·pre·serv·a·tive, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for preservative

Contemporary Examples of preservative

  • Thimerosal was dropped as a preservative in MMR vaccines in 1999, but since then autism rates have skyrocketed.

    The Daily Beast logo
    U.S. Debunks Autism Myth

    Adam Winkler

    March 13, 2010

Historical Examples of preservative

British Dictionary definitions for preservative



something that preserves or tends to preserve, esp a chemical added to foods to inhibit decomposition


tending or intended to preserve
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 preservative

late 14c., from Old French preservatif and directly from Medieval Latin praeservativus, from stem of praeservare (see preserve (v.)). The noun is from early 15c., "a preservative medication;" sense of "chemical added to foods to keep them from rotting" is from 1875.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

preservative in Medicine




A substance added to food products or to organic solutions to prevent decomposition due to chemical change or bacterial action.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.