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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Determinative \De*ter"mi*na*tive\, n. That which serves to determine.

Explanatory determinatives . . . were placed after words phonetically expressed, in order to serve as an aid to the reader in determining the meaning.
--I. Taylor (The Alphabet).


Determinative \De*ter"mi*na*tive\, a. [Cf. F. d['e]terminatif.] Having power to determine; limiting; shaping; directing; conclusive.

Incidents . . . determinative of their course.
--I. Taylor.

Determinative tables (Nat. Hist.), tables presenting the specific character of minerals, plants, etc., to assist in determining the species to which a specimen belongs.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

1650s, from French déterminatif (15c.), from Latin determinat-, past participle stem of determinare (see determine). As a noun from 1832.


a. determine (gloss decide deciding) something. n. 1 (context linguistics English) An ideogram used to mark semantic categories of words in logographic scripts. 2 (context grammar English) A member of a class of words functioning in a noun phrase to identify or distinguish a referent without describing or modifying it. Examples of determinatives include articles (a, the), demonstratives (this, those), cardinal numbers (three, fifty), and indefinite numerals (most, any, each).

  1. adj. having the power or quality of deciding; "the crucial experiment"; "cast the deciding vote"; "the determinative (or determinant) battle" [syn: crucial, deciding(a), determinant, determining(a)]

  2. n. one of a limited class of noun modifiers that determine the referents of noun phrases [syn: determiner]

  3. a determining or causal element or factor; "education is an important determinant of one's outlook on life" [syn: determinant, determiner, determining factor, causal factor]


A determinative, also known as a taxogram or semagram, is an ideogram used to mark semantic categories of words in logographic scripts which helps to disambiguate interpretation. They have no direct counterpart in spoken language, though they may derive historically from glyphs for real words, and functionally they resemble classifiers in East Asian and sign languages. For example, Egyptian hieroglyphic determinatives include symbols for divinities, people, parts of the body, animals, plants, and books/abstract ideas, which helped in reading but none of which were pronounced.

Usage examples of "determinative".

But what gained greatest attention, especially from ranchers in the west, was his discovery in subsequent years of handsome skeletons of four of the progenitors of the horse: eohippus, mesohippus, miohippus and the crucial, determinative merychippus.

Perhaps the determinative of the word Duat, the star within a circle, illustrates the idea of this enveloping of the star.

The Egyptians never took the logical (to us) next step of discarding all their logograms, determinatives, and signs for pairs and trios of consonants, and using just their consonantal alphabet.

Later Sumerian cuneiform did become capable of rendering prose, but it did so by the messy system that I've already described, with mixtures of logograms, phonetic signs, and unpronounced determinatives totaling hundreds of separate signs.

The advent of the Field Process shield and the lasgun with their explosive interaction, deadly to attacker and attacked, placed the current determinatives, on weapons technology.