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 Nevertheless, confusion about the rule lingers, leaving many immigrants apprehensive about using benefit programs that are available to them. Karen Garcia, Los Angeles Times, 17 Sep. 2023 Understandably, both publicity lifers seem mildly apprehensive about being the subjects of a profile rather than playing their usual roles as seasoned pros ensuring an artist’s interview doesn’t go awry. Eric Renner Brown, Billboard, 24 Aug. 2023 However, many cybersecurity professionals are apprehensive about accepting AI. Jon Stojan, USA TODAY, 4 Aug. 2023 There’s a United States and Russia conflict within this show, so was anybody apprehensive about these real-life parallels? Brian Davids, The Hollywood Reporter, 1 July 2023 The only thing these men had in common was an apprehensive determination among them and that, in a matter of weeks, days or even hours, every one of them would become a father. Maggie Menderski, The Courier-Journal, 14 June 2023 Although many Americans were apprehensive about waiting on another travel document when the program was first announced, as more details about ETIAS become available, many travelers are expressing relief at the simplicity of the process. Jessica Poitevien, Condé Nast Traveler, 19 July 2023 But Göransson was apprehensive about creating the music for such a mammoth movie. Marlow Stern, Rolling Stone, 18 July 2023 According to recent polling, Americans in both parties are apprehensive about inflation, political division, and the future of our nation. Jeff Raikes, Forbes, 17 July 2023 See More

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 21 Sep. 2023.

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

More from Merriam-Webster on apprehensive

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!