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

Essential Meaning of apprehensive

: afraid that something bad or unpleasant is going to happen : feeling or showing fear or apprehension about the future He was quite apprehensive [=fearful, uneasy] about the surgery. She gave me an apprehensive [=anxious] look.

Full 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 Thus, leaders tend to be apprehensive about how to act and what to say. Arthi Rabikrisson, Forbes, 4 Oct. 2021 Leeza’s parents are apprehensive to send her to the mainland, explaining they’ve been bankrupted by looking for answers via the healthcare system. Shannon Carlin,, 26 Sep. 2021 Chief Superintendent Melville is apprehensive, in early 1901, at the prospect of Queen Victoria’s impending funeral, with its mile-long procession of European heads of state. Tom Nolan, WSJ, 23 July 2021 Many employees are also apprehensive about the Delta variant, a mutation of Covid-19 that is considered to be more contagious than the first strain of the virus. Lisa Rabasca Roepe, Wired, 30 Aug. 2021 At the end of last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced new face mask guidelines that gave people more opportunities to ditch the covering — news that caused many to rejoice (and some to feel a little apprehensive). Elizabeth Gulino,, 14 May 2021 Joe’s an apprehensive father, and his need to protect his daughter drives many of his actions this season — yes, sometimes to violent ends. Jackson Mchenry, Vulture, 30 Aug. 2021 With the Americans reducing troop levels at the airport amid the risk of ISIS-K attacks and other security concerns, they have been forced into a cordial if apprehensive working relationship with their onetime adversaries in the Taliban. Nabih Bulos, Los Angeles Times, 29 Aug. 2021 But Cone grew apprehensive about Wellsmith’s commercial prospects, especially when other companies started pitching similar products. Washington Post, 17 Aug. 2021

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

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

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Last Updated

16 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Apprehensive.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for apprehensive


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

More from Merriam-Webster on apprehensive

Nglish: Translation of apprehensive for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of apprehensive for Arabic Speakers


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