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 Mostert is out and Eichenberg is doubtful for Sunday’s wild-card playoff game at Buffalo due to their hand/thumb injuries. Chris Perkins, Sun Sentinel, 13 Jan. 2023 But David Kring, Principal Scientist at the USRA’s Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI) in Houston, remains doubtful. Bruce Dorminey, Forbes, 28 Feb. 2021 Gilman started and played every defensive snap in place of Derwin James Jr., who is doubtful again for Sunday because of a quadriceps strain. Staff Writer Follow, Los Angeles Times, 17 Dec. 2022 The Patriots center was hurt in the first quarter and after originally being listed as doubtful to return, he was downgraded to out as the second half started. Nicole Yang,, 21 Nov. 2022 Patrick Mekari left Sunday’s game versus the Pittsburgh Steelers in the third quarter and is doubtful to return with a hand injury, the team announced. Edward Lee,, 5 Dec. 2021 On offense, running back Chris Brooks is also doubtful. Kevin Reynolds, The Salt Lake Tribune, 5 Nov. 2022 And freshman defensive back Jaylon Guilbeau (ankle), who played a season-high 62 snaps against Oklahoma State, is doubtful. Nick Moyle, San Antonio Express-News, 4 Nov. 2022 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 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 2 Feb. 2023.

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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