late 14c., "born prematurely or dead," from Latin abortivus "prematurely born; pertaining to miscarriage; causing abortion," from abort-, past participle stem of aboriri "disappear, miscarry, fail" (see abort). From 14c.-18c. stillborn children or domestic animals were said to be abortive. Transferred meaning "not brought to completion or successful issue" is from 1590s. Also see abortion. Related: Abortiveness.