Meaning of POSITIVE in English


I. ˈpäzəd.iv, -z(ə)tiv adjective

( sometimes -er/-est )

Etymology: Middle English, from Old French positif, from Latin positivus, from positus (past participle of ponere to put, place, lay down) + -ivus -ive — more at position


a. : arbitrarily or formally laid down or imposed : prescribed by express enactment

positive laws

the formal and positive rather than natural manners of the royal court

b. : expressed clearly, certainly, or peremptorily with no doubt, reservation, or unclarity

never use them. That is positive enough — A.T.Quiller-Couch


(1) : fully assured in opinion or utterance

he is positive that he is right

(2) : self-assured , dogmatic

a very positive man


a. : belonging to or constituting the degree of comparison that is expressed in English by the unmodified and uninflected form of an adjective (as young ) or adverb (as rapidly ) and that does not denote an increase or any specified level of the quality, quantity, or relation expressed by the adjective or adverb

the positive degree

the positive form narrow

— compare comparative 1, comparison 3, superlative 1


(1) : independent of changing circumstances or relations : not subject to comparison : free from conditions

a positive concept of nature

— often distinguished from comparative and relative

(2) : being or relating to a motion or device that is definite, unyielding, constant, or certain in its action

a positive system of levers

c. : unquestionably being the thing named : absolutely such

positive proof

: sheer , utter — often used as an intensifier

a positive shame

— compare absolute , downright


a. : concerned with facts and matters of practical experience rather than theory or speculation

positive philosophies

b. : actual or real as distinguished from fictitious

a positive phenomenon

positive social tensions

c. : characterized by the performance of an active and direct role in the economic and social life of a political unit by directly undertaking functions and services (as the regulation of business and labor, establishment of agricultural price supports, provision of social security, and the conservation of natural resources) as contrasted with a restriction to the more limited functions of keeping peace and order

positive government


a. : having or expressing condition, existence, character, or other quality actually present in a real manner or to an absolutely measurable degree as distinguished from merely lacking or failing to express an opposed quality : concrete , genuine

a slight positive change in temperature over the centuries

a positive definition

the people should have a more positive voice in government


(1) : logically affirmative : capable of being constructively applied

positive proposals for the betterment of society

(2) : subject to scientific verification : empirical — distinguished from speculative

(3) : having rendition of light and shade similar in tone to the tones of the original subject — used especially in photography

a positive image

(4) : having properties required to produce a positive image

a positive film

b. : numerically greater than zero : not negative : plus — used of real quantities

positive integers

a positive correlation

c. : reckoned, proceeding, or acting in a direction arbitrarily or customarily taken as that of increase, progressive motion, or superiority : opposed in character or effect to anything construed as negative

the rotation of the earth is usually taken as positive

we are making some positive progress


(1) : relating to, composed of, or charged with positive electricity

(2) : losing electrons : electropositive 2a : basic 3a

(3) : transmitting an ordinary ray with greater speed than an extraordinary — used especially of a uniaxial doubly refracting crystal (as of ice or quartz)

(4) : dextrorotatory

(5) : seeking the north — used of a magnetic pole

(6) : oriented, directed, or moving toward a source of stimulation or characterized by such orientation, direction, or movement

positive phototaxis

a positive response to light

(7) : of, relating to, or constituting a method of steering or turning a vehicle in which the steering wheels move so that they describe concentric arcs in making a turn to ensure freedom from sideslip or harmful resistance

(8) : characterized by or relating to upward movement or greater than average density or magnetic properties of the earth's crust

positive gravity anomaly

d. : falling on a given side of a line or plane — used especially in mathematics


a. : marked by acceptance or approval : indicating agreement or affirmation

a strongly positive response from the audience

b. : affirming the presence of that sought or suspected to be present

a positive test for blood

a positive case history

6. : being or relating to a device giving a to-and-fro motion

a positive dobby

a positive tappet

Synonyms: see sure

II. noun

( -s )

: something that is positive: as

a. obsolete : positive law

b. : the positive degree of comparison in a language : a positive form of an adjective or adverb

c. : something of which an affirmation can be made : a real thing : reality


(1) : positive organ

(2) : positive plate

(3) : positive pole

e. : a positive photograph or a print from a negative (as on printing paper or film)

Webster's New International English Dictionary.      Новый международный словарь английского языка Webster.