Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Putative

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is putative. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Putative is a formal word meaning “generally believed, supposed, or assumed to be (something).” It is always used before a noun. 

// The putative reason for their dismissal was poor job performance.

// Critics challenged his putative allegiance to the cause.

PUTATIVE in Context

“The putative protagonist [of Lucy Ives’ novel Life is Everywhere] is Erin Adamo, a grad student locked out of her apartment one night in New York City in the fall of 2014.” — Nina Renata Aron, The Los Angeles Times, 5 Oct. 2022

Did You Know?

There’s no need to make assumptions about the root behind putative; scholars are quite certain the word comes from Latin putatus, the past participle of the verb putare, which means “to consider” or “to think.” Putative has been part of English since the 15th century, and it often shows up in legal contexts. For instance, a “putative marriage” is one that is believed to be legal by at least one of the parties involved. When that trusting person finds out that their marriage is not sanctioned by law, other putare derivatives—such as disputereputedimputation, and deputy—may come into play.

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