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15th Century; from Medieval Latin missivus, from mittere (to send).


  • (UK, US) IPA(key): /ˈmɪsɪv/
  • (file)


missive (plural missives)

  1. (formal) A written message; a letter, note or memo.
    • c. 1606–1607, William Shakespeare, “The Tragedie of Anthonie and Cleopatra”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act II, scene ii], page 346, column 1:
      [Y]ou / Did pocket vp my Letters: and with taunts / Did gibe my Miſive out of audience.
    • 2008, Claire Armistead, The Guardian, 25 Oct 2008:
      The Madonna letters, which are interspersed with more personal missives in this curious epistolary memoir, accumulate into a rap about the downsides of celebrity - the problems of ageing, of invaded privacy, of becoming vain and impetuously adopting children from other continents.
    • 1851, Herman Melville, Moby-Dick, Chapter 71:
      "Curses throttle thee!" yelled Ahab. "Captain Mayhew, stand by now to receive it"; and taking the fatal missive from Starbuck's hands, he caught it in the slit of the pole, and reached it over towards the boat.
  2. (in the plural, Scotland, law) Letters sent between two parties in which one makes an offer and the other accepts it.
  3. (obsolete) One who is sent; a messenger.
    • c. 1606: Macbeth by Shakespeare
      Whiles I stood rapt in the wonder of it came missives from the King, who all hailed me ‘Thane of Cawdor,’ by which title these Weird Sisters saluted me and referred me to the coming on of time with ‘Hail king that shalt be.’



missive (not comparable)

  1. Specially sent; intended or prepared to be sent.
    a letter missive
    • 1726, John Ayliffe, Parergon juris canonici Anglicani
      Delivery of the Letters Missive
  2. (obsolete) Serving as a missile; intended to be thrown.
    • 1700, John Dryden, Cymon And Iphigenia
      The missive weapons fly.

Related terms[edit]

  • See mission for terms etymologically related to send





missive f (plural missives)

  1. missive



missive f

  1. plural of missiva