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First attested in 1382, with the meaning "causing stillbirth or miscarriage". From Middle English, from Old French abortif,[1] from Latin abortīvus (causing abortion), from aborior (miscarry, disappear), from ab (amiss) + orīor (appear, be born, arise)[2].



abortive (comparative more abortive, superlative most abortive)

  1. (obsolete) Produced by abortion; born prematurely and therefore unnatural. [Attested from around (1350 to 1470) until the mid 18th century.][1]
    • 1592, William Shakespeare, Richard III, Act I, sc. 3:
      Thou elvish-marked, abortive, rooting hog!
    an abortive child
  2. Coming to nothing; failing in its effect; miscarrying; fruitless; unsuccessful. [First attested in the late 16th century.][1]
    an abortive attempt
    • 1851, Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of Seven Gables, Chapter 7:
      He made a salutation, or, to speak nearer the truth, an ill-defined, abortive attempt at curtsy.
    • 1667, John Milton, Paradise Lost, 1799 edition:
      [] and with utter loss of being / Threatens him, plung'd in that abortive gulf.
    • 1838, William H. Prescott, History of the Reign of Ferdinand and Isabella:
      The king in vain excused his hasty retreats and abortive enterprises
  3. (biology) Imperfectly formed or developed; rudimentary; sterile. [First attested in the mid 18th century.][1]
    an abortive organ
    an abortive stamen
    an abortive ovule
  4. (pharmacology, medicine, rare, attributive) Causing abortion; abortifacient
    abortive medicines
  5. (medicine) Cutting short; acting to halt or slow the progress (of a disease).
    abortive treatment of typhoid fever
  6. Made from the skin of a still-born animal.
    abortive vellum

Derived terms[edit]



abortive (plural abortives)

  1. (obsolete) That which is born or brought forth prematurely; an abortion. [Attested from around (1150 to 1350) until the mid 18th century.][1]
    • 1592, Shakespeare, Richard III, I-iii:
      Thou elvish-mark'd, abortive, rooting hog!
  2. (obsolete) A fruitless effort or issue. [Attested from the early 17th century until the early 18th century.][1]
  3. (obsolete) A medicine to which is attributed the property of causing abortion, abortifacient.


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.


abortive (third-person singular simple present abortives, present participle abortiving, simple past and past participle abortived)

  1. (transitive, obsolete) To cause an abortion; to render without fruit. [Attested only in the 17th century.][1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 “abortive” in Lesley Brown, editor-in-chief; William R. Trumble and Angus Stevenson, editors, The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles, 5th edition, Oxford; New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, 2002, →ISBN, page 7.
  2. ^ Elliott K. Dobbie, C. William Dunmore, Robert K. Barnhart, et al. (editors), Chambers Dictionary of Etymology (Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd, 2004 [1998], →ISBN), page 4




  1. feminine singular of abortif




  1. inflection of abortiv:
    1. strong/mixed nominative/accusative feminine singular
    2. strong nominative/accusative plural
    3. weak nominative all-gender singular
    4. weak accusative feminine/neuter singular




  1. Feminine plural of adjective abortivo.





  1. vocative masculine singular of abortīvus