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[ik-spres-iv] /ɪkˈsprɛs ɪv/
full of expression; meaningful:
an expressive shrug.
serving to express; indicative of power to express:
a look expressive of gratitude.
of, relating to, or concerned with expression:
Dance is a highly expressive art.
Sociology. (of a crowd or group) engaging in nonpurposeful activity of an expressive and often rhythmic nature, as weeping, dancing, or shouting.
Compare active (def 15), orgiastic (def 2).
Linguistics. of or relating to forms in which sounds denote a semantic field directly and nonarbitrarily, through sound symbolism based, to some degree, on synesthesia, as observable in onomatopoeia, rhyming and gradational compounds, and emotionally charged words such as hypocoristics and pejoratives.
Origin of expressive
1350-1400; Middle English < Middle French; see express, -ive
Related forms
expressively, adverb
expressiveness, noun
antiexpressive, adjective
antiexpressively, adverb
antiexpressiveness, noun
nonexpressive, adjective
nonexpressively, adverb
nonexpressiveness, noun
overexpressive, adjective
overexpressively, adverb
overexpressiveness, noun
preexpressive, adjective
superexpressive, adjective
superexpressively, adverb
superexpressiveness, noun
1, 2. Expressive, meaningful, significant, suggestive imply the conveying of a thought, indicating an attitude of mind, or the like, by words or otherwise. Expressive suggests conveying, or being capable of conveying, a thought, intention, emotion, etc., in an effective or vivid manner: an expressive gesture. Meaningful and significant imply an underlying and unexpressed thought whose existence is plainly shown although its precise nature is left to conjecture. Meaningful implies a secret and intimate understanding between the persons involved: Meaningful looks passed between them. Significant suggests conveying important or hidden meaning: On hearing this statement, he gave the officers a significant glance. Suggestive implies an indirect or covert conveying of a meaning, sometimes mentally stimulating, sometimes verging on impropriety or indecency: a suggestive story or remark. See also eloquent. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for expressive
  • And unfortunately expressive of how academia has lost much of it's respect within substantial elements of our society.
  • They are adapting the latest communicative means to their own expressive ends.
  • Offers a phenomenological perspective on stance in musical and other forms of expressive culture.
  • His expressive voice adds to the spectrum of musical elements at his command.
  • The cadenzas were potent vehicles for her intensity and expressive gifts.
  • Jill takes advantage of this relationship and showcases the expressive nature of these beasts.
  • Munch developed a psychologically charged and expressive style to transmit emotional sensation.
  • Yet the performance emphasized equality, a sharing of labor for common expressive cause.
  • They have broad, dark-colored faces with wide, expressive eyes.
  • They were really great with letting me be expressive with my ideas.
British Dictionary definitions for expressive


of, involving, or full of expression
(postpositive) foll by of. indicative or suggestive (of): a look expressive of love
having a particular meaning, feeling, or force; significant
Derived Forms
expressively, adverb
expressiveness, 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 expressive

c.1400, "tending to press out," from French expressif, from expres "clear, plain," from stem of Latin exprimere (see express (v.)). Meaning "full of expression" is from 1680s. Related: Expressively; expressiveness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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