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From Middle French expressif



expressive (comparative more expressive, superlative most expressive)

  1. Effectively conveying thought or feeling.


Derived termsEdit

Related termsEdit



expressive (plural expressives)

  1. (linguistics) Any word or phrase that expresses (that the speaker, writer, or signer has) a certain attitude toward or information about the referent.
    • 2017, Tammi Leann Stout, An investigation of projection and temporal referencein Kaqchikel (dissertation for the University of Texas at Austin):
      Consider the case of expressives, where no prior knowledge of the speaker’s attitudes are required to interpret the utterance. In (43) ["That jerk Alexa keeps making me look bad"], Steve does not need to know (and in fact has no prior knowledge of) anything relating to Siri’s attitudes towards Alexa to interpret that Siri has a negative attitude about Alexa. It is the expressive that jerk that implies the negative attitude.
  2. (linguistics, more narrowly) A word or phrase, belonging to a distinct word class or having distinct morphosyntactic properties, with semantic symbolism (for example, an onomatopoeia), variously considered either a synonym, a hypernym or a hyponym of ideophone.
    • 2004, Nicole Kruspe, A Grammar of Semelai (→ISBN), page 396:
      Cross-linguistically 'expressives' are more commonly termed 'ideophones' [...] Expressives are often cited as a distinctive shared feature of the Austroasiatic language family (Diffloth and Zide 1992; Osada 1992 (Mundari); Svantesson 1983 (Kammu)). [...] I do not make a distinction between expressives and ideophones. [...] I distinguish expressives from onomatopoeic forms, although the two probably overlap.
    • 2007, N. J. Enfield, A Grammar of Lao (→ISBN), page 299
      A native metalinguistic term toongl-toojl covers most of these, capturing a range of phenomena associated with alliterative, sound symbolic, and poetic expression. This chapter describes expressive structures under the headings ideophones, onomatopoeia, four-syllable rhyming expressions, echo formation, and interjections.
      12.1 Ideophones
      The term ideophone is roughly equivalent to the term expressive, as well as other terms mimetic and psychomime.
    • 2015, The Munda Languages (Gregory D. S. Anderson, →ISBN), page 139:
      The term 'expressive' was suggested by Diffloth (1976:263–264) and adopted by Emeneau (1980:7) in the South Asian context in the following:
      ‘(E)xpressive’ is the most inclusive term for a form class with semantic symbolism and distinct morphosyntactic properties; ‘ideophones’ are a subclass in which the symbolism is phonological; ‘onomaptoetics’ are ideophones in which the reference of the symbolism is acoustic (i.e. imitative of sounds). Since the ideophones may have reference not only to sounds, but to any other objects of sense, including internal feelings as well as external perceptions (sight, taste, smell, etc.), and since the Indo-Aryan/Dravidian items already examined have this very wide type of reference, the broadest term ‘expressives’ seems appropriate.
    • 2017, Sam Gray, Classifications of Mundari Expressives and Other Reduplicated Structures (thesis):
      I examine the valency of expressives, a class of ideophones in Mundari, comparing their behaviors as predicates to those of reduplicated verb forms.

Further readingEdit




  1. feminine singular of expressif




  1. inflected form of expressiv