1. Receiving or subjected to an action without responding or initiating an action in return: the mind viewed as a passive receptacle for sensory experience.
2. Accepting or submitting without objection or resistance; submissive: a passive acceptance of one's fate.
3. Existing, conducted, or experienced without active or concerted effort: “Although tick paralysis is a reportable disease in Washington, surveillance is passive, and only 10 cases were reported during 1987–1995” (US Department of Health and Human Services). “[Many parents believe] that computers are educational and, at the least, less passive than television” (Laurie Hays).
4. Of, relating to, or being certain bonds or shares that do not bear financial interest.
5. Of, relating to, or being a solar heating or cooling system that uses no external mechanical power.
6. Grammar Of, relating to, or being a verb form or voice used to indicate that the grammatical subject is the object of the action or the effect of the verb. For example, in the sentence They were impressed by his manner, were impressed is in the passive voice.
7. Chemistry Unreactive except under special or extreme conditions; inert.
8. Electronics Exhibiting no gain or contributing no energy: a passive circuit element.
1. The passive voice.
2. A verb or construction in the passive voice.
[Middle English, from Old French passif, from Latin passīvus, subject to emotion, the passive, from passus, past participle of patī, to suffer; see pē(i)- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.