doubt·​ful ˈdau̇t-fəl How to pronounce doubtful (audio)
: lacking a definite opinion, conviction, or determination
They were doubtful about the advantages of the new system.
: uncertain in outcome : undecided
The outcome of the election remains doubtful.
: marked by qualities that raise doubts about worth, honesty, or validity
of doubtful repute
: giving rise to doubt or uncertainty : open to question
It is doubtful that they ever knew what happened.
a doubtful premise
doubtfully adverb
doubtfulness noun
Choose the Right Synonym for doubtful

doubtful, dubious, problematic, questionable mean not affording assurance of the worth, soundness, or certainty of something.

doubtful implies little more than a lack of conviction or certainty.

doubtful about whether I said the right thing

dubious stresses suspicion, mistrust, or hesitation.

dubious about the practicality of the scheme

problematic applies especially to things whose existence, meaning, fulfillment, or realization is highly uncertain.

whether the project will ever be finished is problematic

questionable may imply no more than the existence of doubt but usually suggests that the suspicions are well-grounded.

a man of questionable honesty

Example Sentences

I tried to reassure them, but they remained doubtful. The truth of the statements was doubtful. Their decisions were based on data of doubtful accuracy.
Recent Examples on the Web On the Cleveland side, Kevin Love (11.3 PPG, 7.4 RPG) is listed as doubtful, but that’s the only significant injury news. cleveland, 20 Nov. 2022 The Barmore news wasn’t the only negative development on the injury front, as the Patriots listed punter Jake Bailey as doubtful for Sunday’s Jets game because of a back injury. Jim Mcbride,, 18 Nov. 2022 Reynolds, who has 26 catches for 357 yards this season, was listed as doubtful on Friday's injury report. Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press, 6 Nov. 2022 But the Bears, who have two games in five days with their Thursday night matchup against the Washington Commanders looming, listed him as doubtful to play in Week 5. Chicago Tribune Staff, Chicago Tribune, 9 Oct. 2022 The New England Patriots listed Mac Jones as doubtful on the final injury report leading up to Sunday’s matchup with the Detroit Lions, setting the stage for Bailey Zappe to make his first NFL start. Oliver Thomas, Forbes, 8 Oct. 2022 New England’s injury and practice report for this week shows Jones as a limited participant on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and lists his game status as doubtful, a step up from out. Mark Inabinett |, al, 7 Oct. 2022 Tindall was added to the game status report early Sunday morning with an illness, initially listed as doubtful before being ruled out 90 minutes ahead of kickoff. David Furones, Sun Sentinel, 18 Sep. 2022 The Ravens ruled out DT Travis Jones (knee) and listed T Ronnie Stanley (ankle) as doubtful for Sunday's game. Noah Trister, ajc, 9 Sep. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'doubtful.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


see doubt entry 1

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3

Time Traveler
The first known use of doubtful was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near doubtful

Cite this Entry

“Doubtful.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition



doubt·​ful ˈdau̇t-fəl How to pronounce doubtful (audio)
: not clear or certain as to fact
a doubtful claim
: questionable sense 2
doubtful intentions
: undecided in opinion
: not certain in outcome
doubtfully adverb
doubtfulness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on doubtful

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