anx·​ious ˈaŋ(k)-shəs How to pronounce anxious (audio)
: characterized by extreme uneasiness of mind or brooding fear about some contingency : worried
anxious parents
: characterized by, resulting from, or causing anxiety : worrying
They spent an anxious night.
: ardently or earnestly wishing
She was anxious to learn more.
anxiously adverb
anxiousness noun

Did you know?

Can anxious Be Used as a Synonym for eager?

The fact that individual words can have multiple senses that are closely related in meaning is something which many people find objectionable about the English language. Anxious is an example of such a word, as people will use it to mean "worried," "eager (but with an undertone of worry)," and simply "eager."

The word has been used in the sense of "eager" for a considerable length of time, with evidence going back at least to the 17th century.

Choose the Right Synonym for anxious

eager, avid, keen, anxious, athirst mean moved by a strong and urgent desire or interest.

eager implies ardor and enthusiasm and sometimes impatience at delay or restraint.

eager to get started

avid adds to eager the implication of insatiability or greed.

avid for new thrills

keen suggests intensity of interest and quick responsiveness in action.

keen on the latest fashions

anxious emphasizes fear of frustration or failure or disappointment.

anxious not to make a social blunder

athirst stresses yearning but not necessarily readiness for action.

athirst for adventure

Example Sentences

… to the eye anxious for reform in the city and forgetful of conditions in the countryside … Joseph A. Amato, Dust, 2000
He was exhausted yet exhilarated, anxious … about getting on the ice with a team that had a chance to win. Michael Farber, Sports Illustrated, 20 Mar. 2000
The individual states—fearful of losing industry and richer residents to lower-tax rivals and anxious to minimize their burden of needy citizens … Atlantic, May 1997
He was so anxious to get a fly into the water that he had to reproach himself for haste. John Cheever, The Wapshot Chronicle, 1957
She feels anxious and depressed. People are anxious about the future. He was anxious that the weather would not improve in time for the party. We experienced a few anxious moments as we waited to hear the results of the test. It was an anxious night as she waited for her children to come home. He was waiting at the door with an anxious expression on his face. He was anxious for more news. See More
Recent Examples on the Web But, despite the privileged environs, the mood is anxious and vaguely uncomfortable, as if Barney were searching not just for her best vantage point but for her place in a world that she was born into. Vince Aletti, The New Yorker, 18 Mar. 2023 But in an anxious France, with many people struggling to pay their bills and unsure of their futures, Macron could not make the argument. Roger Cohen,, 18 Mar. 2023 After an appropriately alarming cold open, Evil Dead Rise begins with an anxious Beth taking a pregnancy test in a gritty night club. Lovia Gyarkye, The Hollywood Reporter, 17 Mar. 2023 The experience has left him anxious to leave the house. al, 16 Mar. 2023 His retiring, anxious energy smartly updates the diffident English romantic persona cultivated by the likes of Hugh Grant and Colin Firth — but with a timely hint of Gen-Z neurosis in the mix. Guy Lodge, Variety, 16 Mar. 2023 Arkansas 73, Illinois 63 Ricky Council IV scored 18 points as the No. 8 seed Razorbacks survived some anxious moments in the second half against a tough Illini team, holding on to win their opener in Des Moines, Iowa. San Francisco Chronicle, 16 Mar. 2023 Suddenly, an anxious 24-year-old kid trying to find his place in the world was the best bracketologist in the world. Luca Evans, Los Angeles Times, 16 Mar. 2023 Now, some 7,000 tons of trash are piling up on Paris sidewalks, the city says, with no one to collect it and many residents anxious for solutions. Annabelle Timsit, Washington Post, 15 Mar. 2023 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'anxious.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


Latin anxius "worried, disturbed, uneasy, marked by or inducing anxiety or distress" (adjective derivative from the base of angere "to choke, cause pain to, afflict, vex") + -ous — more at anger entry 1

First Known Use

1548, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of anxious was in 1548

Dictionary Entries Near anxious

Cite this Entry

“Anxious.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Mar. 2023.

Kids Definition


anx·​ious ˈaŋ(k)-shəs How to pronounce anxious (audio)
: afraid or nervous about what may happen : worried
anxious about their son's health
: desiring earnestly
anxious to make good
anxiously adverb
anxiousness noun

Medical Definition


anx·​ious ˈaŋ(k)-shəs How to pronounce anxious (audio)
: characterized by extreme uneasiness of mind or brooding fear about some contingency
anxious students
: characterized by, resulting from, or causing anxiety
an anxious time in the hospital waiting room

More from Merriam-Webster on anxious

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