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15th century; from Medieval Latin missīvus, from mittō (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 [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [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.
    • December 13 2021, Molly Ball, Jeffrey Kluger, Alejandro de la Garza, “Elon Musk: Person of the Year 2021”, in Time Magazine[1]:
      The juvenile missives from his unmistakably phallic Twitter avatar came days after one of his rockets launched NASA’s first antiasteroid planetary-defense test []
    • 25 October 2008, Claire Armistead, The Guardian[2]:
      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 November 14, Herman Melville, chapter 71, in Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, 1st American edition, New York, N.Y.: Harper & Brothers; London: Richard Bentley, →OCLC:
      "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 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Tragedie of Macbeth”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, (please specify the act number in uppercase Roman numerals, and the scene number in lowercase Roman numerals):
      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.

Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]

  • See mission for terms etymologically related to send





missive f (plural missives)

  1. missive

Further reading[edit]



missive f

  1. plural of missiva