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[re-troh-ak-tiv] /ˌrɛ troʊˈæk tɪv/
operative with respect to past occurrences, as a statute; retrospective:
a retroactive law.
pertaining to a pay raise effective as of a past date.
Origin of retroactive
1605-15; retro- + active
Related forms
retroactively, adverb
retroactivity, noun
nonretroactive, adjective
nonretroactively, adverb
nonretroactivity, noun
unretroactive, adjective
unretroactively, adverb Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for retroactively
  • Science can't retroactively fit theory to future facts.
  • The formula should be modifiable over time and even applied retroactively if necessary.
  • Last year's salary increases will be paid retroactively.
  • But the new law imposed tough restrictions on shelters, and did so retroactively.
  • Some want the law to work retroactively, a serious threat to the many foreign-owned media already in existence.
  • To state and local governments with their retroactively enhanced public employee pensions.
  • But a military campaign is not retroactively justified by its success alone, and anyway much collateral harm is already done.
  • Even his later eminence couldn't turn him retroactively into a cult figure.
  • To apply reduced sentences for certain cocaine base offenses retroactively for certain offenders, and for other purposes.
  • Therefore, the employees rate of pay may not be corrected retroactively.
British Dictionary definitions for retroactively


applying or referring to the past: retroactive legislation
effective or operative from a date or for a period in the past
Derived Forms
retroactively, adverb
retroactiveness, retroactivity, 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 retroactively



1610s, from French rétroactif (16c.) "casting or relating back," from Latin retroact-, past participle stem of retroagere "drive or turn back," from retro- "back" (see retro-) + agere "to drive, set in motion" (see act (v.)). Related: Retroactively.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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