use-icon

HOW TO USE THE DICTIONARY

Learn what the dictionary tells you about words.

Get Started Now!

Some compound words (like bus rapid transit, dog whistle, or identity theft) don’t appear on the drop-down list when you enter them into the search window. If a compound term doesn’t appear in the drop-down list, try entering the term into the search window and then hit the search button (instead of the “enter” key). Alternatively, begin searches for compound terms with a quotation mark.

use-icon

THE USAGE PANEL

The Usage Panel is a group of nearly 200 prominent scholars, creative writers, journalists, diplomats, and others in occupations requiring mastery of language. The Panelists are surveyed annually to gauge the acceptability of particular usages and grammatical constructions.

The Panelists

puzzle-icon

NEED HELP SOLVING A CROSSWORD PUZZLE?

Go to our Crossword Puzzle Solver and type in the letters that you know, and the Solver will produce a list of possible solutions.

open-icon

INTERESTED IN DICTIONARIES?

Check out the Dictionary Society of North America at http://www.dictionarysociety.com

open-icon

AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY APP

The new American Heritage Dictionary app is now available for iOS and Android.

scroll-icon

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:

Indo-European Roots

Semitic Roots

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.

open-icon

OPEN DICTIONARY PROJECT

Share your ideas for new words and new meanings of old words!

Start Sharing Now!

100-words-icon

See word lists from the best-selling 100 Words Series!

Find out more!

pos·i·tive (pŏzĭ-tĭv)
Share:
adj.
1. Characterized by or displaying certainty, acceptance, or affirmation: a positive answer; positive criticism.
2. Measured or moving forward or in a direction of increase or progress: positive steps.
3.
a. Desirable, admirable, or beneficial: a woman with many positive qualities; the positive features of this new software.
b. Optimistic or constructive: a positive attitude.
c. Not disparaging or malicious: ran a positive political campaign.
4. Very confident; certain: I'm positive he's right. See Synonyms at sure.
5. Explicitly or openly expressed or laid down: a positive demand.
6. Admitting of no doubt; irrefutable: positive proof.
7. Concerned with practical rather than theoretical matters.
8. Philosophy
a. Of or relating to being or the possession of qualities rather than non-being or the absence of qualities: the question of the positive existence of evil.
b. Of or relating to positivism.
c. Of or relating to positive law.
9. Of or relating to religion based on revelation rather than on nature or reason alone.
10. Informal Utter; absolute: a positive darling.
11. Mathematics
a. Relating to or designating a quantity greater than zero.
b. Relating to or designating the sign (+).
c. Relating to or designating a quantity, number, angle, or direction opposite to another designated as negative.
12. Physics
a. Relating to or designating an electric charge of a sign opposite to that of an electron.
b. Of or relating to a body having fewer electrons than protons.
13. Chemistry Of or relating to an ion, the cation, that is attracted to a negative electrode.
14. Medicine Indicating the presence of a particular disease, condition, or organism: a positive test for pregnancy.
15. Biology Indicating or characterized by response or motion toward the source of a stimulus, such as light: positive tropism.
16. Having the areas of light and dark in their original and normal relationship, as in a photographic print made from a negative.
17. Grammar Of, relating to, or being the simple uncompared degree of an adjective or adverb, as opposed to either the comparative or superlative.
18. Driven by or generating power directly through intermediate machine parts having little or no play: positive drive.
n.
1. An affirmative element or characteristic.
2. Mathematics A quantity greater than zero.
3. Physics A positive electric charge.
4. A photographic image in which the lights and darks appear as they do in nature.
5. Grammar
a. The uncompared degree of an adjective or adverb.
b. A word in this degree.
6. Music A division of some pipe organs, similar in sound to the great but smaller and less powerful.

[Middle English, having a specified quality, from Old French positif, from Latin positīvus, formally laid down, from positus, past participle of pōnere, to place; see apo- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]

posi·tive·ly adv.
posi·tive·ness, posi·tivi·ty n.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 

This website is best viewed in Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, or Safari. Some characters in pronunciations and etymologies cannot be displayed properly in Internet Explorer.