1. Characterized by or displaying certainty, acceptance, or affirmation: a positive answer; positive criticism.
2. Measured or moving forward or in a direction of increase or progress: positive steps.
a. Desirable, admirable, or beneficial: a woman with many positive qualities; the positive features of this new software.
b. Optimistic or constructive: a positive attitude.
c. Not disparaging or malicious: ran a positive political campaign.
4. Very confident; certain: I'm positive he's right. See Synonyms at sure.
5. Explicitly or openly expressed or laid down: a positive demand.
6. Admitting of no doubt; irrefutable: positive proof.
7. Concerned with practical rather than theoretical matters.
a. Of or relating to being or the possession of qualities rather than non-being or the absence of qualities: the question of the positive existence of evil.
b. Of or relating to positivism.
c. Of or relating to positive law.
9. Of or relating to religion based on revelation rather than on nature or reason alone.
10. Informal Utter; absolute: a positive darling.
a. Relating to or designating a quantity greater than zero.
b. Relating to or designating the sign (+).
c. Relating to or designating a quantity, number, angle, or direction opposite to another designated as negative.
a. Relating to or designating an electric charge of a sign opposite to that of an electron.
b. Of or relating to a body having fewer electrons than protons.
13. Chemistry Of or relating to an ion, the cation, that is attracted to a negative electrode.
14. Medicine Indicating the presence of a particular disease, condition, or organism: a positive test for pregnancy.
15. Biology Indicating or characterized by response or motion toward the source of a stimulus, such as light: positive tropism.
16. Having the areas of light and dark in their original and normal relationship, as in a photographic print made from a negative.
17. Grammar Of, relating to, or being the simple uncompared degree of an adjective or adverb, as opposed to either the comparative or superlative.
18. Driven by or generating power directly through intermediate machine parts having little or no play: positive drive.
1. An affirmative element or characteristic.
2. Mathematics A quantity greater than zero.
3. Physics A positive electric charge.
4. A photographic image in which the lights and darks appear as they do in nature.
a. The uncompared degree of an adjective or adverb.
b. A word in this degree.
6. Music A division of some pipe organs, similar in sound to the great but smaller and less powerful.
[Middle English, having a specified quality, from Old French positif, from Latin positīvus, formally laid down, from positus, past participle of pōnere, to place; see apo- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
posi·tive·ness, pos′i·tivi·ty n.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 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.