: very cautious or careful
"He'd taken off his sling and stuffed it into his windbreaker pocket. Earlier, he'd said that his shoulder was already much better. He rotated it for me in a gingerly fashion." - From an article by Roger Angell in The New Yorker, March 26, 2001
"He went ahead of us with the gingerly movements of a man in pain, and I remembered Maurice had said his painkiller addiction began when he injured his back." - From Ella Barrick's 2012 book Dead Man Waltzing
Did You Know?
Etymologists take a gingerly approach to assigning any particular origins to this word. While it might have come from the name of the spice, there's nothing concrete to back up that idea. Another conjecture is that it's related to an Old French word, "gensor," that meant "delicate." That's because in 16th century English an earlier sense of "gingerly" often referred to dancing or walking with dainty steps. Not till the 17th century did it change to apply to movements that were cautious in order to avoid being noisy or causing injury, and to a wary manner in handling or presenting ideas. Not too surprisingly, given its "-ly" ending, "gingerly" is also quite often correctly used as an adverb. One could thus say that "she rotated his shoulder gingerly."
Test Your Memory
What is the meaning of "mot juste," our Word of the Day from August 19? The answer is …