cau·​tious ˈkȯ-shəs How to pronounce cautious (audio)
: careful about avoiding danger or risk
cautious investors
cautious optimism
cautiously adverb
cautiousness noun
Choose the Right Synonym for cautious

cautious, circumspect, wary, chary mean prudently watchful and discreet in the face of danger or risk.

cautious implies the exercise of forethought usually prompted by fear of danger.

a cautious driver

circumspect suggests less fear and stresses the surveying of all possible consequences before acting or deciding.

circumspect in his business dealings

wary emphasizes suspiciousness and alertness in watching for danger and cunning in escaping it.

keeps a wary eye on the competition

chary implies a cautious reluctance to give, act, or speak freely.

chary of signing papers without having read them first

Examples of cautious in a Sentence

Any cautious tourist will guard her passport. You cannot be overly cautious when you're driving in snow. He answered the question with a cautious reply.
Recent Examples on the Web Be particularly cautious with posts and media that are furthering a particular cause or course of action. David Nield, WIRED, 26 Nov. 2023 The Oregon Veterinary Medical Association recommends dog owners be cautious rather than worried. Will Sullivan, Smithsonian Magazine, 21 Nov. 2023 Additionally, those who live in areas native to cassowaries should be cautious while driving and make sure their pets are leashed or in a fenced area when outside. Kelli Bender, Peoplemag, 17 Nov. 2023 Pressed in an interview Wednesday on CNN, another IDF spokesman, Richard Hecht, was cautious in his comments about what the raid had revealed. Meg Kelly, Washington Post, 15 Nov. 2023 Midwestern conservatives are extremely cautious not to repeat that political and budgetary mistake… Endangered Species Dominic Pino: The federal government only takes credit for 71 species having actually recovered, which is less than 3 percent of the total. Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, 12 Nov. 2023 With inflation eating away at their paychecks, consumers are being cautious about spending and seeking cheaper ways to have parcels delivered. Brendan Murray, Fortune, 12 Nov. 2023 While Biden has stood firmly behind Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Beijing took a cautious approach after the attack from Hamas. Chris Massaro, Fox News, 11 Nov. 2023 Despite its cautious nature, the elephantnose fish is inquisitive and is known for its strange exploratory behavior, Skeels says. Elizabeth Anne Brown, Scientific American, 6 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'cautious.' 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 caution entry 1

First Known Use

1614, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of cautious was in 1614

Dictionary Entries Near cautious

Cite this Entry

“Cautious.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


cau·​tious ˈkȯ-shəs How to pronounce cautious (audio)
: marked by or given to caution
a cautious reply
cautiously adverb
cautiousness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on cautious

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