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

  • adjective Granting or inclined to grant permission; tolerant or lenient.
  • adjective Characterized by freedom of personal behavior or a disregard of traditional social mores.
  • adjective Permitted or optional.
  • adjective Biology Supporting viral replication. Used of a cell.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • That suffers, permits, or allows (something to pass or be done); that allows or grants permission: unhindering.
  • Permitted; unhindered; that may or may not be done or left undone; at the option of the individual, community, etc.; optional; not obligatory or mandatory.

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

  • adjective Permitting; granting leave or liberty.
  • adjective Permitted; tolerated; suffered.

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

  • adjective Giving, or predisposed to give permission; lenient.

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

  • adjective granting or inclined or able to grant permission; not strict in discipline
  • adjective not preventive


Sorry, no etymologies found.


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word permissive.


  • I don't much care for the term 'permissive' in raising youngsters.

    BBC News - Home 2011

  • They believe and hope they're going into what they call permissive environment, but they are prepared for anything they say.

    CNN Transcript Jul 19, 2006 2006

  • They believe it is what they call a permissive environment that the Lebanese will cause them, obviously, no problem.

    CNN Transcript Jul 21, 2006 2006

  • Spock's arrest in particular garnered attention because conservatives for some time had been blaming what they termed his permissive approach to child rearing for creating this spoiled and quarrelsome generation.

    1968 the Year that Rocked the World Kurlansky, Mark 2004

  • We also know that, based on the security environment, the area's been declared what we call permissive, which means that more and more humanitarian organizations can move into the area now.

    CNN Transcript Apr 15, 2003 2003

  • She was often critical of what in England was called the permissive society; but on socio-sexual questions she was in practice tolerantly libertarian.

    John Campbell: Michele Bachmann: America's Iron Lady? John Campbell 2012

  • According to them, secular humanists nurture a culture that promotes abortion; encourages gay marriage; prohibits prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance in permissive schools that indoctrinate students with Darwin's "theory" of evolution; preaches moral relativism; and generally threatens to subvert the Christian foundations of the republic.

    April 2005 2005

  • The global relevance of the West’s political message could be vitiated by the growing tendency in the advanced world to infuse the inner content of liberal democracy with a life-style that I define as permissive cornucopia.

    Out of Control Zbigniew Brzezinski 1993

  • But the alternative path, known as a permissive path because its continued existence is at the whim of the school, has now been deemed unacceptable by local walkers.

    Harrow school rows with walkers over right to ramble in its grounds 2011

  • But they really have to operate in what the military calls a permissive environment.

    CNN Transcript Apr 4, 2003 2003


Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.