[ suhb-trak-tiv ]

  1. tending to subtract; having power to subtract.

  2. Mathematics. (of a quantity) that is to be subtracted; having the minus sign (−).

Origin of subtractive

First recorded in 1680–90; subtract + -ive

Other words from subtractive

  • non·sub·trac·tive, adjective
  • non·sub·trac·tive·ly, adverb
  • un·sub·trac·tive, adjective

Words Nearby subtractive Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use subtractive in a sentence

  • The chief mixtures of two of the "additive" primaries produce the "subtractive" primaries.

    Artificial Light | M. Luckiesh

British Dictionary definitions for subtractive


/ (səbˈtræktɪv) /

  1. able or tending to remove or subtract

  2. indicating or requiring subtraction; having a minus sign: –x is a subtractive quantity

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

Scientific definitions for subtractive


[ səb-trăktĭv ]

  1. Relating to the production of color by the blocking or removal of varying wavelengths, as with colored filters, or by the mixing of pigments that absorb certain wavelengths and reflect others.♦ The subtractive primaries cyan, magenta, and yellow are those colors whose wavelengths can be filtered or absorbed in different proportions to produce all other colors. Compare additive. See Note at color.

  2. Marked by or involving subtraction.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.