ab·so·lute (ăbsə-lt′, ăb′sə-lt)
a. Unqualified in extent or degree; total: absolute silence.
b. Not limited by restrictions or exceptions: an absolute right.
c. Being fully such; utter: an absolute fool.
d. Unconstrained by constitutional or other provisions: an absolute ruler.
2. Not mixed; pure: absolute oxygen.
3. Not to be doubted or questioned; positive: absolute proof.
a. Of, relating to, or being a word, phrase, or construction that is isolated syntactically from the rest of a sentence, as the referee having finally arrived in The referee having finally arrived, the game began.
b. Of, relating to, or being a transitive verb when its object is implied but not stated. For example, inspires in We have a teacher who inspires is an absolute verb.
c. Of, relating to, or being an adjective or pronoun that stands alone when the noun it modifies is being implied but not stated. For example, in Theirs were the best, theirs is an absolute pronoun and best is an absolute adjective.
a. Relating to measurements or units of measurement derived from fundamental units of length, mass, and time.
b. Relating to absolute temperature.
6. Law Complete and unconditional; final: an absolute divorce.
1. Something that is absolute.
2. Absolute Philosophy
a. Something regarded as the ultimate and transcendent basis of all thought and being. Used with the.
b. Something regarded as exceeding or transcending everything else to the point of being independent and unrelated.
[Middle English absolut, from Latin absolūtus, unrestricted, past participle of absolvere, to absolve : ab-, away; see AB-1 + solvere, to loosen; see leu- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Usage Note: An absolute term denotes a property that a thing either can or cannot have. Such terms include absolute itself, chief, complete, perfect, prime, unique, and mathematical terms such as equal and parallel. By strict logic, absolute terms cannot be compared, as by more and most, or used with an intensive modifier, such as very or so. Something either is complete or it isn't—it cannot be more complete than something else. Consequently, sentences such as He wanted to make his record collection more complete, and You can improve the sketch by making the lines more perpendicular, are often criticized as illogical. Such criticism confuses pure logic or a mathematical ideal with the rough approximations that are frequently needed in ordinary language. Certainly in some contexts we should use words strictly logically; otherwise teaching mathematics would be impossible. But we often think in terms of a scale or continuum rather than in clearly marked either/or categories. Thus, we may think of a statement as either logically true or false, but we also know that there are degrees of truthfulness and falsehood. Similarly, there may be degrees of completeness to a record collection, and some lines may be more perpendicular—that is, they may more nearly approximate mathematical perpendicularity—than other lines. See Usage Notes at equal, unique.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
The American Heritage Dictionary Blog
Check out our blog, updated regularly, for new words and revised definitions, interesting images from the 5th edition, discussions of usage, and more.
American Heritage Dictionary Products
The American Heritage Dictionary, 5th Edition
The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms
The American Heritage Roget's Thesaurus
Curious George's Dictionary
The American Heritage Children's Dictionary
The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots
The American Heritage Student Grammar Dictionary
The American Heritage Desk Dictionary + Thesaurus
The American Heritage Science Dictionary
The American Heritage Dictionary of Business Terms
The American Heritage Student Dictionary
The American Heritage Essential Student Thesaurus