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

  • adj. Receiving or subjected to an action without responding or initiating an action in return: the mind viewed as a passive receptacle for sensory experience. See Synonyms at inactive.
  • adj. Accepting or submitting without objection or resistance; submissive: a passive acceptance of one's fate.
  • adj. Existing, conducted, or experienced without active or concerted effort: "Although tick paralysis is a reportable disease in Washington, surveillance is passive, and only 10 cases were reported during 1987-1995” ( U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). "[Many parents believe] that computers are educational and, at the least, less passive than television” ( Tamar Lewin).
  • adj. Of, relating to, or being certain bonds or shares that do not bear financial interest.
  • adj. Of, relating to, or being a solar heating or cooling system that uses no external mechanical power.
  • adj. Grammar Of, relating to, or being a verb form or voice used to indicate that the grammatical subject is the object of the action or the effect of the verb. For example, in the sentence They were impressed by his manner, were impressed is in the passive voice.
  • adj. Chemistry Unreactive except under special or extreme conditions; inert.
  • adj. Electronics Exhibiting no gain or contributing no energy: a passive circuit element.
  • adj. Psychology Relating to or characteristic of an inactive or submissive role in a relationship, especially a sexual relationship.
  • n. Grammar The passive voice.
  • n. Grammar A verb or construction in the passive voice.
  • n. One that is submissive or inactive. Often used in the plural: "And the rest of us, we passives of the world, proceeded . . . as if nothing untoward had happened” ( Martin Gottfried).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Being subjected to an action without producing a reaction.
  • adj. Taking no action.
  • adj. Being in the passive voice.
  • adj. Being inactive and submissive in a relationship, especially in a sexual one.
  • adj. Not participating in management.
  • n. The passive voice of verbs.
  • n. A form of a verb that is in the passive voice.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Not active, but acted upon; suffering or receiving impressions or influences.
  • adj. Receiving or enduring without either active sympathy or active resistance; without emotion or excitement; patient; not opposing; unresisting
  • adj. Inactive; inert; unreactive; not showing strong affinity.
  • adj. Designating certain morbid conditions, as hemorrhage or dropsy, characterized by relaxation of the vessels and tissues, with deficient vitality and lack of reaction in the affected tissues.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Suffering; not acting; inactive; receiving or capable of receiving impressions from external objects.
  • Receptive; unresisting; not opposing; receiving or suffering without resistance: as, passive obedience; passive submission to the laws.
  • In grammar, expressive of the suffering or enduring of some action, or the being affected by some action: applied to a derivative mode of conjugation, by which that which is the object of the other or “active” form is made the subject of the enduring of the verbal action: thus, Lydia a me amatur, ‘Lydia is loved by me,’ is corresponding passive to ego Lydiam amo, ‘I love Lydia.’

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

  • adj. lacking in energy or will
  • n. the voice used to indicate that the grammatical subject of the verb is the recipient (not the source) of the action denoted by the verb
  • adj. expressing that the subject of the sentence is the patient of the action denoted by the verb
  • adj. peacefully resistant in response to injustice


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

Middle English, from Old French passif, from Latin passīvus, subject to emotion, the passive, from passus, past participle of patī, to suffer.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From French passif, from Latin passivus ("serving to express the suffering of an action; in late Latin literally capable of suffering or feeling"), from pati ("to suffer"), past participle of passus; compare patient.


  • The Conjugation of an active verb, is styled the _active voice_; and that of a passive verb, the _passive voice_.

    English Grammar in Familiar Lectures

  • When the perfect participle of an _intransitive_ verb is joined to the neuter verb _to be_, the combination is not a passive verb, but a _neuter_ verb in a _passive form_; as, "He _is gone_;

    English Grammar in Familiar Lectures

  • Flacius declared with respect to the issue formulated by Strigel: "I explain my entire view as follows: Man is purely passive (_homo se habet pure passive_).

    Historical Introductions to the Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church

  • Because they approach the matter in the same way as Gandhi has explained the people approach it - may approach it in England under the term passive resistance?


  • However, they do act on information passed to them even if it could have been obtained by torture in what they describe as "passive" involvement.

    Musharraf hints that Britain tacitly backed torture

  • But that's because a passive is always a stylistic train wreck when the subject refers to something newer and less established in the discourse than the agent (the noun phrase that follows "by").

    Hunting Down the False Passive

  • With the rudiments of a structure in place, Kallman and other executives began to draw a distinction in artist negotiations between what they termed passive and active investments.

    Fortune’s Fool

  • The central bank automatically accepts offers to buy lats in what it calls passive intervention when the euro hits 0.7098 lats, the top end of its 1 percent fluctuation band based on a central rate of 0.7028 lats. Aktuelle Nachrichten

  • Thus says an advocate of necessity: “The term passive is sometimes employed to express the relation of an effect to its cause.

    A Theodicy, or, Vindication of the Divine Glory

  • Sure, it put the player in passive mode excessively, but I certainly felt justified and rewarded for investing that time.

    Great Big Bites


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  • The passive voice is to be avoided.

    January 25, 2007