How is one different from the other in the sense of "criticism, bad opinion, disapproval"? Is one more formal, maybe?

I found the following collocations:

pejorative term
pejorative sense
pejorative connotation
pejorative word

Can I always say the following without any change in the meaning, or as a native speaker you do see the difference?

negative term
negative sense
negative connotation
negative word
  • 1
    To me negative generally captures a broader range of bad feelings, while a pejorative is more specifically used to criticize or demean. For example, in "I'm feeling anxious about that meeting", anxious is a negative word (it expresses a bad feeling), but not really a pejorative (it does not criticize either yourself, the meeting, or the feeling). – Maciej Stachowski Apr 1 at 8:56

Negative can just mean "not" so "not ugly" is a negative phrase, but it's not pejorative

But "pejorative" means specifically expressing disapproval. So a word like "stupid" is pejorative (or can be used in a pejorative sense), but the sentence "He is stupid" doesn't use any negation.

However "pejorative" is a much rarer word than negative and the senses of negative can stretch to mean "bad". Not everyone has the rare word "pejorative" in their vocabulary so the more general term "negative" can be used instead.

Moreover, calling something "pejorative" implies intent to insult or criticise. Consider the word "crusader". This word is used by some people as a pejorative, but by others as a complimentary word. It depends on your viewpoint about the crusades.

Pejorative is also a fairly new word. It was even rarer prior to 1950, and is still a rather technical word. Simpler words is "slur" or "insult".

Is "crusader" a slur?


A pejorative is deliberately insulting towards someone, something, or a group. This would include slurs, insults etc.

"Negative term" could mean pejoratives, but 'negative' has a wider meaning. A 'negative' term could just cast something in a bad light, either intentionally or unintentionally.

For example:

  • Calling someone "stupid" is an example of using a pejorative term to insult someone.
  • Telling a story about someone making a 'stupid mistake' may cause the listener to think negatively about them (ie that they are capable of making 'stupid' mistakes) but it doesn't directly insult the person or explicitly say that they always make stupid mistakes.

Some words have come to have negative connotations due to their misuse as slurs. For example, some medical terms that were once widely used to describe people with certain disabilities or learning difficulties fell into misuse as pejorative slurs, and as a result they are no longer used by medical professionals due to the 'negative' connotation.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.