1. having the quality of describing; characterized by description: a descriptive passage in an essay.
  2. Grammar.
    1. (of an adjective or other modifier) expressing a quality of the word it modifies, as fresh in fresh milk.Compare limiting(def 2).
    2. (of a clause) nonrestrictive.Compare restrictive(def 4).
  3. noting, concerned with, or based upon the fact or experience.
  4. characterized by or based upon the classification and description of material in a given field: descriptive botany.


  1. characterized by or containing description; serving to describe
  2. grammar (of an adjective) serving to describe the referent of the noun modified, as for example the adjective brown as contrasted with my and former
  3. relating to or based upon description or classification rather than explanation or prescriptiondescriptive linguistics

adj.1751, from Late Latin descriptivus, from descript-, past participle stem of describere (see description). Related: Descriptively; descriptiveness.

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