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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. [Attested from around (1350 to 1470) until the mid 18th century.][1]
    an abortive child
  2. Coming to naught; failing in its effect; miscarrying; fruitless; unsuccessful. [First attested in the late 16th century.][1]
    an abortive attempt
    • 1667, John Milton, Paradise Lost, 1799 edition:
      [] and with utter loss of being / Threatens him, plung'd in that abortive gulf.
    • (Can we date this quote?), William H. Prescott, (Please provide the title of the work):
      An abortive enterprise.
  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. (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.


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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 Lesley Brown (editor), The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 5th edition (Oxford University Press, 2003 [1933], ISBN 978-0-19-860575-7), 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 0550142304), page 4




  1. feminine singular of abortif



abortive f pl

  1. feminine plural of abortivo





  1. vocative masculine singular of abortīvus