ap·​pre·​hen·​sive ˌa-pri-ˈhen(t)-siv How to pronounce apprehensive (audio)
: 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
: capable of understanding or quick to do so : discerning
: having awareness or knowledge of something : cognizant
apprehensively adverb
apprehensiveness noun

Did you know?

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.”

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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web While many 17-year-olds are looking forward to their future beyond high school, others might feel apprehensive about entering the adult world. Sherri Gordon, Parents, 1 July 2024 On the day of the New York verdict, a nurse in Lorain County, Ohio, grew apprehensive after listening to her co-workers and patients talk about how Trump would motivate his voters by railing against a crooked judicial system. Ben Terris, Washington Post, 18 June 2024 The United States and its European allies are right to be apprehensive. Bruce Jones, Foreign Affairs, 15 June 2022 While Tazer and Rod quickly activate their newfound energies for personal gain, Andre is apprehensive about how to proceed. Aramide Tinubu, Variety, 26 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for apprehensive 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'apprehensive.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


see apprehension

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

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

Dictionary Entries Near apprehensive

Cite this Entry

“Apprehensive.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


ap·​pre·​hen·​sive ˌap-ri-ˈhen(t)-siv How to pronounce apprehensive (audio)
: fearful of what may be coming
apprehensively adverb
apprehensiveness noun

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