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[ek-spli-tiv] /ˈɛk splɪ tɪv/
an interjectory word or expression, frequently profane; an exclamatory oath.
a syllable, word, or phrase serving to fill out.
Grammar. a word considered as regularly filling the syntactic position of another, as it in It is his duty to go, or there in There is nothing here.
Also, expletory
[ek-spli-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee] /ˈɛk splɪˌtɔr i, -ˌtoʊr i/ (Show IPA)
. added merely to fill out a sentence or line, give emphasis, etc.:
Expletive remarks padded the speech.
Origin of expletive
1600-10; < Late Latin explētīvus serving to fill out, equivalent to Latin explēt(us) filled, filled up (past participle of explēre; see explement) + -īvus -ive
Related forms
expletively, adverb Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for expletive
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • An expletive is that word which fills out the sentence that contains it; as an expletive adverb.

    Orthography Elmer W. Cavins
  • This expletive was certainly not appreciated by her who used it.

    Clare Avery Emily Sarah Holt
  • She breathed the expletive she learned from her latest companions.

    We Can't Have Everything Rupert Hughes
  • When the word devil is used as a general term or as an expletive the capital is not used.

    Capitals Frederick W. Hamilton
  • "How the—" he began, but checked the expletive, which found vent elsewhere, as expletives will.

    Doctor Claudius, A True Story F. Marion Crawford
  • He drawled the expletive as though it were some Oriental word.

    The Sleuth of St. James's Square Melville Davisson Post
British Dictionary definitions for expletive


an exclamation or swearword; an oath or a sound expressing an emotional reaction rather than any particular meaning
any syllable, word, or phrase conveying no independent meaning, esp one inserted in a line of verse for the sake of the metre
expressing no particular meaning, esp when filling out a line of verse
Derived Forms
expletively, adverb
Word Origin
C17: from Late Latin explētīvus for filling out, from explēre, from plēre to fill
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 expletive

1610s, originally "a word or phrase serving to fill out a sentence or metrical line," from Middle French explétif (15c.) and directly from Late Latin expletivus "serving to fill out," from explet-, past participle stem of Latin explere "fill out," from ex- "out" (see ex-) + plere "to fill" (see pleio-).

Sense of "exclamation," often in the form of a cuss word, first recorded 1815 in Sir Walter Scott, popularized by edited transcripts of Watergate tapes (mid-1970s), in which expletive deleted replaced President Nixon's salty expressions. As an adjective, from 1660s.


mid-15c., from Latin expletivus (see expletive (n.)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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expletive in Culture
expletive [(ek-spluh-tiv)]

Any exclamation or oath, especially one that is obscene or profane, as in “Dammit, I forgot to buy the milk.”

Note: The Oval Office tapes of President Richard Nixon, released during the investigation of the Watergate scandal, made famous the phrase “expletive deleted,” which appeared frequently in expurgated transcripts of the tapes.
The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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