I've seen the word vitativeness used in a book about the history of writing, referring to a list of descriptive words written in 1900. Vitative(ness) is not in my Oxford dictionary, nor dictionary.com. What does it mean?

  • 2
    I recommend using onelook when your usual dictionaries fail you. Feb 21, 2013 at 11:02
  • Yes, while onelook is no match for a full OED, the ability to compare different definitions quickly is a great tool, especially as some of the specialist dictionaries give a new insight (though they include Urban Dictionary, which needs several pinches of salt).
    – Jon Hanna
    Feb 21, 2013 at 13:59
  • Onelook has got some great pattern searching options too, e.g. "vita*:life" gives words starting "vita" related to "life" Feb 21, 2013 at 20:27

1 Answer 1


Vitativeness is in the Oxford English Dictionary, where it is described as a term used in phrenology (the scientific study of the mind). The meaning is given as ‘the love of life, the desire to live, regarded as a special faculty of the mind or brain.’ There are two supporting citations from the nineteenth century.

  • Thanks, Barrie. My Oxford at home is not the huge two volume edition. Feb 21, 2013 at 11:04
  • I use the online OED at oed.com. It requires a paid subscription, but it's free in the UK to those who have a public library card. Feb 21, 2013 at 11:09
  • And if you decide to splash out on the full set, the online is more up to date than the print, so unless you want the luxury of the leather bound edition (and hey, if you're splashing out that much, why not go for both versions!), it's a good investment. It's not cheap though, so I tend to have it quarters I'm a bit flush, and not otherwise.
    – Jon Hanna
    Feb 21, 2013 at 12:16
  • @Jon Hanna. Irish libraries not so generous then? Feb 21, 2013 at 13:20
  • 1
    Yes, that's right. I believe all county libraries in the UK offer the service. It might be worth inquiring whether libraries in Ireland do too. Feb 21, 2013 at 14:01

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