from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Covering a wide field of subjects; rambling.
  • adjective Proceeding to a conclusion through reason rather than intuition.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Relating to the understanding, or the active facility of knowing or of forming conclusions; ratiocinative: opposed to intuitive.
  • Passing rapidly from one subject to another; desultory; rambling; digressional.
  • Passing over an object, as in running the eye over the parts of a large object of vision.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective Passing from one thing to another; ranging over a wide field; roving; digressive; desultory.
  • adjective Reasoning; proceeding from one ground to another, as in reasoning; argumentative.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective of speech or writing Tending to digress from the main point; rambling.
  • adjective philosophy Using reason and argument rather than intuition.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adjective proceeding to a conclusion by reason or argument rather than intuition
  • adjective (of e.g. speech and writing) tending to depart from the main point or cover a wide range of subjects


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Medieval Latin discursīvus, from Latin discursus, running about; see discourse.]


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  • "It could be on any subject they chose, and the only requirement was that the essay had to be discursive, that is to say, they had to formulate a thesis, develop an argument, defend it, and draw a conclusion," he writes in "Crisis on Campus," a manifesto for overhauling higher education.

    Reading, Writing, Radical Change 2010

  • It was hence possible to con - ceive a comprehensive doctrinal learning such that, by its means, man reasons and discusses in the three arts called discursive (sermocinales), but at the same time endeavors to learn about things through the other four arts called real (reales).


  • Secondly, knowledge may be called discursive or collative in use; as at times those who know, reason from cause to effect, not in order to learn anew, but wishing to use the knowledge they have.

    Summa Theologica, Part III (Tertia Pars) From the Complete American Edition Aquinas Thomas

  • So it seems the adjective the NYT should have used was not "discursive" but "prevaricative".

    In anticipation of Friday's debate, the NYT sizes up Obama and McCain. Ann Althouse 2008

  • Drawing on Ian Hacking's work, Haslanger has referred to this as "discursive" construction:

    Feminist Metaphysics Haslanger, Sally 2007

  • On the contrary, Jacobi had been forced to use the term, and to oppose it to reason, only because the philosophers had pre-empted the latter term, and had unduly restricted it to mean the kind of discursive conceptualization that abstracts from real things and is ultimately irrelevant to judgments of existence.

    Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi di Giovanni, George 2005

  • He had this kind of discursive education, but no discipline; and when he went to college, he was at the mercy of any who courted his affection, intoxicated his imagination, and then led him into vice.

    The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 07, No. 43, May, 1861 Creator Various

  • I mildly call the discussion "discursive," though it would be fair in one or two instances to dub the piece frankly a medley.

    Platform Monologues 1902

  • Michaelmas, and the New Year, and there hold a kind of discursive symposium on such themes as then and there present themselves.

    Platform Monologues 1902

  • There's no room for that kind of discursive, descriptive run-on on the Web, where

    NYT > Home Page 2010


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  • That there is a damn fine word.

    May 29, 2008

  • came across the term, "discursive integration". Use of discursive always throws me, is the text inferring some kind of desultory conflation of objects, or deliberative reasoning?

    February 7, 2014