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See also: élective



elect +‎ -ive


  • IPA(key): /ɪˈlɛktɪv/
    • (file)
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɛktɪv


elective (comparative more elective, superlative most elective)

  1. Of, or pertaining to voting or elections; involving a choice between options.[1]
    Synonym: electoral
    Antonyms: appointive, hereditary
    • 1697, John Dryden, The Works of Virgil [] translated into English Verse, London: Jacob Tonson, dedicatory preface to the Marquess of Normanby,[3]
      For his Conscience could not but whisper to the Arbitrary Monarch, that the Kings of Rome were at first Elective, and Govern’d not without a Senate:
    • 1782, William Cowper, “The Progress of Error”, in Poems,[4], London: J. Johnson, page 43:
      Man thus endued with an elective voice,
      Must be supplied with objects of his choice.
    • 1854, George Bancroft, chapter 35, in History of the United States of America, from the Discovery of the American Continent,[5], volume 6, Boston: Little, Brown, page 185:
      [] they rested their hopes of redress on the independent use of their elective franchise;
    • 1860, Walt Whitman, “Proto-Leaf”, in Leaves of Grass[6], Boston: Thayer and Eldridge, page 21:
      See the populace, millions upon millions, handsome, tall, muscular, both sexes, clothed in easy and dignified clothes―teaching, commanding, marrying, generating, equally electing and elective;
    • 1896, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, “The South African Question” in Speeches and Writings of M. K. Gandhi, Madras: G.A. Natesan, 3rd edition, 1922, p. 6,[7]
      [The bill] says that no natives of countries (not of European origin) which have not hitherto possessed elective representative institutions [] shall be placed on the voters roll []
  2. Open to choice; freely chosen; (also, usually) unnecessary; minor.
    Synonyms: discretionary, optional, voluntary
    Antonyms: compulsory, mandatory, obligatory, required, involuntary
    After accounting for all of my required courses, there is hardly any room in my schedule for any elective ones.
    • 1654, Thomas Hobbes, Of Libertie and Necessitie[8], London: F. Eaglesfield, pages 12–13:
      [] his Lordship is deceived if he think any spontaneous action after once being checked in it, differs from an action voluntary and elective, for even the setting of a mans foot, in the posture for walking, and the action of ordinary eating was once deliberated of how and when it should be done, and though afterward it became easie & habitual so as to be done without fore-thought, yet that does not hinder but that the act is voluntary and proceedeth from election.
    • 1782, Frances Burney, Cecilia, London: T. Payne & Son, and T. Cadell, Volume 5, Book 9, Chapter 8, pp. 160-161,[9]
      “You know not then,” said Cecilia, in a faint voice, “my inability to comply?”
      “Your ability, or inability, I presume are elective?”
      “Oh no!—my power is lost!—my fortune itself is gone!”
    • 2001, Nadine Gordimer, The Pickup[10], Toronto: Viking, page 23:
      [Her friends] are, after all, her elective siblings who have distanced themselves from the ways of the past, their families []
    • 2013, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, chapter 38, in Americanah[11], New York: Knopf, page 346:
      [] That blog is a game that you don’t really take seriously, it’s like choosing an interesting elective evening class to complete your credits.”
    • 2019, Dave Eggers, The Parade, New York: Vintage, page 130:
      Now some adventuring imbecile had acquired an elective sickness and was paying its price.
  3. (US health care system, technical) Scheduled and nonemergent (regardless of whether necessary or unnecessary and whether minor or serious).[2]
    Antonyms: emergent, unscheduled
    It was very confusing hearing my cancer surgery being classified as "elective surgery". Am I "electing" to live rather than die?
    • 2024 January 9, Dan Lamothe, Matt Viser, Fenit Nirappil, Missy Ryan, “Austin treated for prostate cancer before emergency, Pentagon reveals”, in Washington Post[12], retrieved 2024-01-09:
      The vast majority of surgical procedures are considered elective, which means they can be scheduled in advance. [] doctors warned that thousands of patients were suffering as a result of delayed elective procedures such as hernia repair and spinal fusion. [] Nitin Yerram, director of urological oncology at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, said most cancer surgeries are considered elective, a term that's often misunderstood. "We tend to think more of tummy tucks and cosmetic surgery," Yerram said. "However, all ‘elective’ means is it's a scheduled surgery with work-up done before that. The opposite of elective is emergent or trauma situation, such as a car crash, where it's not a scheduled procedure."

Usage notes[edit]

In the US health care system, the technical sense of this adjective often causes confusion, because the usual sense implies the concepts of "unnecessary", "minor", or "skippable" but the technical sense applies to many procedures that are necessary to continuance of health and prevention of death.[2]

Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]



elective (plural electives)

  1. Something that is an option or may be freely chosen, especially a course of study.
    I still need to decide which electives to take along with my compulsory courses next semester.



  1. ^ Elisha Coles, An English Dictionary, London: Peter Parker, 1677: “Elective, belonging or subject to Election.”[1]
  2. 2.0 2.1 Lamothe, Dan, Viser, Matt, Nirappil, Fenit, Ryan, Missy (2024 January 9) “Austin treated for prostate cancer before emergency, Pentagon reveals”, in Washington Post[2], retrieved 2024-01-09