a. Running away or fleeing, as from the law.
b. Of or relating to fugitives: "My brother ... was on the fugitive squad, tracking draft dodgers" (James Carroll).
a. Lasting only a short time; fleeting: "[His] house and burial place ... should be visited by all who profess even a fugitive interest in political economy" (John Kenneth Galbraith).
b. Difficult to comprehend or retain; elusive: fugitive solutions to the problem.
c. Given to change or disappearance; perishable: fugitive beauty; fugitive tint.
d. Of temporary interest: "Apart from juvenilia and fugitive verses, his poetic legacy consists of only some seventy poems" (Daniel Hoffman).
3. Wandering or tending to wander; vagabond: "We also chanced upon fugitive monks, penniless pilgrims and tradesmen" (Jeanne Marie Laskas).
1. A person who flees, especially from a legal process, persecution, or danger.
2. Something fleeting or ephemeral.
[Middle English fugitif, from Old French, from Latin fugitīvus, from fugitus, past participle of fugere, to flee.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2019 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.