Linguistics. of or pertaining 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.
1350-1400;Middle English < Middle French; see express, -ive
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.
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.