a. Expressing, containing, or consisting of a negation, refusal, or denial: gave a negative answer to our request.
b. Indicating opposition or resistance: a negative reaction to the new advertising campaign.
2. Lacking positive or constructive features, especially:
a. Unpleasant; disagreeable: had a negative experience on his first job.
b. Gloomy; pessimistic: a negative outlook.
c. Unfavorable or detrimental: a negative review; a negative effect on the child's development.
d. Hostile or disparaging; malicious: ran a negative campaign against her opponent.
3. Medicine Not indicating the presence of a particular disease, condition, or organism.
4. Philosophy Of or relating to non-being or the absence of qualities rather than being or the possession of qualities: the purely negative virtue of unselfishness.
5. Logic Designating a proposition that denies agreement between a subject and its predicate.
a. Of or relating to a quantity less than zero.
b. Of or relating to the sign (−).
c. Of or relating to a quantity to be subtracted from another.
d. Of or relating to a quantity, number, angle, velocity, or direction in a sense opposite to another of the same magnitude indicated or understood to be positive.
a. Of or relating to an electric charge of the same sign as that of an electron, indicated by the symbol (−).
b. Of or relating to a body that has more electrons than protons.
8. Chemistry Of or relating to an ion, the anion, that is attracted to a positive electrode.
9. Biology Moving or turning away from a stimulus, such as light: a negative tropism.
1. A statement or act indicating or expressing a contradiction, denial, or refusal.
a. A statement or act that is highly critical of another or of others: campaign advertising that was based solely on negatives.
b. Something that lacks all positive, affirmative, or encouraging features; an element that is the counterpoint of the positive: “Life is full of overwhelming odds. You can't really eliminate the negatives but you can diminish them” (Art Linkletter).
c. A feature or characteristic that is not deemed positive, affirmative, or desirable: “As voters get to know his liberal views, his negatives will rise” (Richard M. Nixon).
3. Grammar A word or part of a word, such as no, not, or non-, that indicates negation. See Usage Note at double negative.
4. The side in a debate that contradicts or opposes the question being debated.
a. An image in which the light areas of the object rendered appear dark and the dark areas appear light. In a color negative, hues are also reversed so that each color is represented by its complementary color.
b. A film, plate, or other photographic material containing such an image.
6. Mathematics A negative quantity.
tr.v. neg·a·tived, neg·a·tiv·ing, neg·a·tives
1. To refuse to approve; veto.
2. To deny; contradict.
3. To demonstrate to be false; disprove.
4. To counteract or neutralize.
[Middle English, from Old French negatif, from Latin negātīvus, from negātus, past participle of negāre, to deny; see NEGATE.]
nega·tive·ness, neg′a·tivi·ty (-tĭvĭ-tē) n.
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.