adjective ap·pre·hen·sive \ ˌa-pri-ˈhen(t)-siv \
|Updated on: 10 Jul 2018

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





Examples of apprehensive in a Sentence

  1. 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 CaffreyBoston Sunday Globe2 Oct. 2005
  2. … 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 SeymourNew York Times Book Review28 Sept. 2003
  3. 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 SpencerParentingApril 1997
  4. I'm fully apprehensive of the options, I assure you.

Recent Examples of apprehensive from the Web

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.

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.”

Origin and Etymology of apprehensive

Synonym Discussion of 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

APPREHENSIVE Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of apprehensive for English Language Learners

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

APPREHENSIVE Defined for Kids


adjective ap·pre·hen·sive \ ˌa-pri-ˈhen-siv \

Definition of apprehensive for Students

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



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