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[in-ak-tiv] /ɪnˈæk tɪv/
not active:
an inactive volcano.
sedentary or passive:
an inactive life.
sluggish; indolent.
Military. not on active duty.
  1. inert; unreactive.
  2. noting a compound that has no effect on polarized light.
Origin of inactive
1715-25; in-3 + active
Related forms
inactively, adverb
inactivity, inactiveness, noun
1. unmoving, immobile, inoperative. 1, 2. Inactive, dormant, inert, sluggish, torpid suggest lack of activity. Inactive indicates absence of action, indisposition to activity, or cessation of activity: an inactive compound, life, file of papers. Dormant suggests the quiescence or inactivity of that which sleeps but may be roused to action: a dormant volcano. Inert suggests the condition of dead matter, with no inherent power of motion or action; it may also mean unable to move, or heavy and hard to move: an inert mass; inert from hunger. Sluggish expresses slowness of natural activity or of that which does not move readily or vigorously: a sluggish stream, brain. Torpid suggests a state of suspended physical powers, a condition particularly of animals that hibernate: Snakes are torpid in cold weather. 3. lazy, idle, slothful.
1–3. lively. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for inactive
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • If observed without moving the plant about, they appear to be tranquil and inactive.

    The Insect World Louis Figuier
  • If the imagination intoxicates the poet, it is not inactive in other men.

    Essays, Second Series Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Look at our generals, what faults they make; at our admirals, how inactive they are.

    The Warden Anthony Trollope
  • It is well for us that they will now be forced to be inactive.

    The Cat of Bubastes G. A. Henty
  • This inactive position he has kept as long as public sentiment permitted.

British Dictionary definitions for inactive


idle or inert; not active
sluggish, passive, or indolent
(military) of or relating to persons or equipment not in active service
(chem) (of a substance) having little or no reactivity
(of an element, isotope, etc) having little or no radioactivity
Derived Forms
inactively, adverb
inactivity, inactiveness, 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 inactive

1725, from in- (1) "not, opposite of" + active.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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