ap·​pre·​hen·​sive | \ˌa-pri-ˈhen(t)-siv \

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

Still, Cindy Lawrence, co-executive director of MoMath, was apprehensive. Joshua A. Krisch, Popular Mechanics, "A Pythagorean Party at the Flatiron Building," 6 Dec. 2013 Because decorating is expensive and long term, many clients are apprehensive about patterns, especially so many together. Douglas Brenner, House Beautiful, "John Knott and John Fondas on Designing Their Pattern Happy Maine House," 1 Feb. 2013 After 50 years in government service, James Clapper is more apprehensive about the future of the country than ever before. NBC News, "James Clapper: Fired Trump adviser Flynn 'became an angry man'," 7 June 2018 Rebecca and her apprehensive husband Christopher soon legally adopt the baby, Andrew, as their own son, thus formalizing the familial structures that Alam constructs with gentle, unflinching honesty. Hannah Giorgis, The Atlantic, "Rumaan Alam Ponders the Limits of Parental Love," 15 May 2018 But his internship took place when Barack Obama was president, and Brandon was admittedly apprehensive about returning to Capitol Hill under the Trump administration, considering its decidedly anti-LGBTQ actions and policies. Emma Sarran Webster, Teen Vogue, "Brandon Studler Discusses Life as the Only Openly Transgender Person Working on Capitol Hill," 29 June 2018 Jennifer de Haro, managing attorney with the organization RAICES, said the situation makes many immigrants apprehensive. Sarah Smith And Diane Smith, star-telegram, "Job postings offer clues to inner workings of facilities for immigrant children," 18 June 2018 The financial markets are relieved Italy has a government after nearly 90 days without, but apprehensive about what comes next. Tim Lister, CNN, "Europe is on the verge of a big new crisis, just six years after the last one," 2 June 2018 If the manager was apprehensive, the players would be, too. Dylan Hernandez,, "Dave Roberts leaned on his late father to survive his first managerial crisis," 16 June 2018

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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Last Updated

13 Nov 2018

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

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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 \

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).


something that serves to warn or remind

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