ap·​pre·​hen·​sive | \ ˌa-pri-ˈhen(t)-siv How to pronounce apprehensive (audio) \

Definition of apprehensive

1 : viewing the future with anxiety or alarm : feeling or showing fear or apprehension about the future … many adults who do not think twice about the risks of driving an automobile are apprehensive about flying.— Henry Petroski
2 : capable of understanding or quick to do so : discerning
3 : having awareness or knowledge of something : cognizant

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Other Words from apprehensive

apprehensively adverb
apprehensiveness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for apprehensive

fearful, apprehensive, afraid mean disturbed by fear. fearful implies often a timorous or worrying temperament. the child is fearful of loud noises apprehensive suggests a state of mind and implies a premonition of evil or danger. apprehensive of being found out afraid often suggests weakness or cowardice and regularly implies inhibition of action or utterance. afraid to speak the truth

How has the meaning of apprehensive changed over time?

When Shakespeare wrote in Julius Caesar “And men are flesh and blood, and apprehensive,” he was not using the word apprehensive with the meaning which we so often encounter today (“viewing the future with anxiety or alarm”). The Bard was using the word’s older meaning of “capable of understanding or quick to do so” or “showing insight and understanding.” Apprehensive has shifted its meaning considerably in the seven hundred or so years it has been inhabiting our language. Its earliest meanings had to do with apprehension, to be sure, but it was apprehension meaning “the act of learning,” (a sense that is now obsolete) or “the act or faculty or grasping with the intellect.” The words apprehensive and apprehension both have roots in the Latin words prehendere meaning “to seize.”

Examples of apprehensive in a Sentence

When the Crossroads Rhode Island social services agency switched to a 401(k) retirement plan from a pension last year, it added a feature that made some employees apprehensive. To ensure that as many employees as possible saved for retirement, the Providence nonprofit chose to automatically enroll all its workers into the 401(k) plan and deduct a minimum of 4 percent from their paychecks. — Andrew Caffrey, Boston Sunday Globe, 2 Oct. 2005 … Sargent, a shrewder character, was apprehensive about how the portrait would be viewed by the conventional crowds for whom a day out at the Salon was a social fixture in the Paris calendar. He was right. The public saw nothing lovely in this pallid, long- nosed woman with her prominent chin and superior smile. — Miranda Seymour, New York Times Book Review, 28 Sept. 2003 I arrived at my first Lamaze class the same way I showed up for my baby showers and ob-gyn appointments: a little excited, a little apprehensive, but mostly obediently, because it's what you're supposed to do when you're pregnant. — Paula Spencer, Parenting, April 1997 I'm fully apprehensive of the options, I assure you.
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Recent Examples on the Web According to a Washington Post dispatch from Iowa this month, voters are apprehensive about the prospect of war with Iran, but not particularly interested in talking about it. J.c. Pan, The New Republic, "Toward a Working-Class Anti-War Movement," 13 Jan. 2020 For example, anyone who has recently dislocated a shoulder to the front tends to be apprehensive when raising the arm up and rotating it backward, as this moves the shoulder closer to dislocation. Colin Hoobler, oregonlive, "Zach Collins’ shoulder injury: A look at the recovery process and potential return timeline for the Portland Trail Blazers forward," 5 Nov. 2019 Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise in 'It Chapter Two' Warner Bros. Pictures However, while many people are apprehensive or fearful of clowns, both Nader and McAndrew agree that someone having an actual phobia of clowns, a.k.a. Megan Mccluskey, Time, "Why Are You So Afraid of Clowns? Here's What Psychologists Say," 31 Oct. 2019 Though, there’s also a brief clip of stars Rob Lowe and Liv Tyler square dancing, befitting the show’s Texas setting, to go with plenty of footage of them looking apprehensive or distraught. Tyler Aquilina,, "Watch Rob Lowe and Liv Tyler battle a massive fire in intense first 9-1-1: Lone Star trailer," 22 Oct. 2019 The girls said they were offered candy, became apprehensive and fled. Carol Robinson |, al, "Kamille ‘Cupcake’ McKinney suspect said she saw child’s sexual assault," 13 Dec. 2019 After her time with Dr. Ablow, Monique was apprehensive about trusting a new therapist. Ginia Bellafante, New York Times, "What It Took for a Fox News Psychiatrist to Finally Lose His License," 20 Dec. 2019 Meanwhile, though the newspaper industry was initially apprehensive about Brave’s plan, the company has signed up some big-name publishers, including NPR, Wikipedia, and The Washington Post, to its revenue sharing program. Wired, "The Brave Browser Extends Its Payouts to iOS," 13 Nov. 2019 Still, school administrators were somewhat apprehensive that Roberts would even bother accepting the invitation or the award. Phillip Morris, cleveland, "Cokie Roberts used a local voice to help shatter the glass of the congressional ceiling: Phillip Morris," 22 Sep. 2019

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

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First Known Use of apprehensive

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for apprehensive

see apprehension

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Time Traveler for apprehensive

Time Traveler

The first known use of apprehensive was in the 14th century

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Statistics for apprehensive

Last Updated

23 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Apprehensive.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 24 January 2020.

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More Definitions for apprehensive


How to pronounce apprehensive (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of apprehensive

: afraid that something bad or unpleasant is going to happen : feeling or showing fear or apprehension about the future


ap·​pre·​hen·​sive | \ ˌa-pri-ˈhen-siv How to pronounce apprehensive (audio) \

Kids Definition of apprehensive

: fearful of what may be coming He was apprehensive about the surgery.

Other Words from apprehensive

apprehensively adverb

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Comments on apprehensive

What made you want to look up apprehensive? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a feeling of well-being or elation

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