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 Zhu, who asked that his company’s name be withheld, is apprehensive about being in close contact again with colleagues and commuters. Zheping Huang,, "Coronavirus Is Making Life Hell for China’s Tech Workers," 11 May 2020 As a result, other researchers may be apprehensive about using the technology as a screening tool. Jonathan Vanian, Fortune, "How A.I. may help solve science’s ‘reproducibility’ crisis," 4 May 2020 Then officials have to confront a new quandary: how to steer an apprehensive public back to mass transit. Rachel Swan,, "Cars, trains and uncertainty: How coronavirus will change Bay Area transit," 27 Apr. 2020 But advocates are apprehensive about how long the ban on visitations will last. Bailey Loosemore, The Courier-Journal, "As the coronavirus enters Kentucky's nursing homes, state halts routine inspections," 3 Apr. 2020 Wishy, who works out of Evansville and is from New York, was initially apprehensive. Matthew Vantryon, Indianapolis Star, "Inside the mad rush for medical masks among entrepreneurs and billionaire donors," 10 Apr. 2020 People are more and more apprehensive to go to Meijer or a big box grocery store right now. Mark Kurlyandchik, Detroit Free Press, "High-profile metro Detroit restaurants selling groceries to stem losses from coronavirus," 2 Apr. 2020 The decision follows a report from The Verge that safety drivers were becoming apprehensive about picking up riders as the COVID-19 pandemic worsens. Laura Sky Brown, Car and Driver, "Waymo Pauses Driver-Monitored Service Following Driver Pressure," 17 Mar. 2020 Meanwhile, in a ship traversing the Panama Canal, a 24-year-old line cook aboard Cunard’s Queen Victoria is already feeling apprehensive, just four months into his first tour. Regine Cabato, Washington Post, "Cancellations due to coronavirus drive fear among cruise workers about being sent home without pay," 12 Mar. 2020

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

28 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Apprehensive.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 May. 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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