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[kuh n-struhk-tiv] /kənˈstrʌk tɪv/
constructing or tending to construct; helping to improve; promoting further development or advancement (opposed to destructive):
constructive criticism.
of, relating to, or of the nature of construction; structural.
deduced by inference or interpretation; inferential:
constructive permission.
Law. denoting an act or condition not directly expressed but inferred from other acts or conditions.
Origin of constructive
1670-80; < Medieval Latin constrūctīvus, equivalent to Latin constrūct(us) (see construct) + īvus -ive
Related forms
constructively, adverb
constructiveness, noun
nonconstructive, adjective
nonconstructively, adverb
nonconstructiveness, noun
quasi-constructive, adjective
quasi-constructively, adverb
unconstructive, adjective
unconstructively, adverb
1. productive, helpful, handy, useful. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for constructive
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • His reply was that in so far as they were at all constructive, they consisted mostly of exploded heresies of the first century.

    Science and Morals and Other Essays Bertram Coghill Alan Windle
  • Vaucanson was a man of the highest order of constructive genius.

    Self-Help Samuel Smiles
  • Suppose the mental energy left in Europe after the war is insufficient for such a constructive feat as this.

    War and the Future H. G. Wells
  • We see at once that that doctrine was not negative but positive and constructive.

    History of Religion Allan Menzies
  • Experience with the new legislation so far has clearly demonstrated its constructive nature.

British Dictionary definitions for constructive


serving to build or improve; positive: constructive criticism
(law) deduced by inference or construction; not expressed but inferred
(law) having a deemed legal effect: constructive notice
another word for structural
Derived Forms
constructively, adverb
constructiveness, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for constructive

early 15c., "derived by interpretation," from Middle French constructif or from Medieval Latin constructivus, from Latin construct-, past participle stem of construere "to heap up" (see construction). Meaning "pertaining to construction" is from 1817; "having the quality of constructing" is from 1841. Related: Constructively. Constructive criticism is attested by 1841.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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constructive in Technology

A proof that something exists is "constructive" if it provides a method for actually constructing it. Cantor's proof that the real numbers are uncountable can be thought of as a *non-constructive* proof that irrational numbers exist. (There are easy constructive proofs, too; but there are existence theorems with no known constructive proof).
Obviously, all else being equal, constructive proofs are better than non-constructive proofs. A few mathematicians actually reject *all* non-constructive arguments as invalid; this means, for instance, that the law of the excluded middle (either P or not-P must hold, whatever P is) has to go; this makes proof by contradiction invalid. See intuitionistic logic for more information on this.
Most mathematicians are perfectly happy with non-constructive proofs; however, the constructive approach is popular in theoretical computer science, both because computer scientists are less given to abstraction than mathematicians and because intuitionistic logic turns out to be the right theory for a theoretical treatment of the foundations of computer science.

The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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