adjective du·bi·ous \ ˈdü-bē-əs also dyü- \
|Updated on: 16 Aug 2018

Definition of dubious

1 : unsettled in opinion : doubtful
  • I was dubious about the plan.
2 : giving rise to uncertainty: such as
a : of doubtful promise or outcome
  • a dubious plan
b : questionable or suspect as to true nature or quality
  • the practice is of dubious legality





dubious was our Word of the Day on 07/25/2015. Hear the podcast!

Examples of dubious in a Sentence

  1. The recent rumbles and ruptures in the financial markets are finally making people reassess the dubious systems of credit that have arisen in the past few years. —William SafireNew York Times Magazine19 Aug. 2007
  2. Thus, the translation of the Latin word biographus as "a biography," and the limitation of "biographies" to written, printed histories of men, was perhaps inevitable. Poor Dryden was given the dubious honor of being the first to use the generic term—despite the fact that his phrase had been taken out of the context of biographical compilers, in a discussion of Plutarch. —Nigel HamiltonBiography2007
  3. That indeed is the crux of the matter. Today especially, when community-oriented policing is being introduced everywhere, it seems not only ethically dubious but self-defeating to engage in practices that at their best undermine trust and cooperation between citizens and law-enforcement officials and at their worst foster cynicism toward our legal system. —Edwin DobbHarper'sMay 2002
  4. To avoid fees, the new "relationship" minimum for checking accounts jumped from $2000 to as much as $6000. And what would customers get in exchange? The ability to take advantage of such a dubious new benefit as a consolidated monthly statement. Consumer ReportsMarch 1996
  5. He made the highly dubious claim that Elvis is still alive and living in Hawaii.

  6. a man of dubious character

Recent Examples of dubious from the Web

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

There's No Uncertainty Around The Definition of dubious

Dubious derives from the Latin verb dubare, meaning "to hesitate in choice of opinions or courses," and it is related to the Latin word for "two": duo. Dubious can be used to indicate uncertainty about the result of an action or the truth of a statement as well as about the uncertainty of a person and his or her character. In either case, it usually implies a feeling of doubt from suspicion, mistrust, or hesitation.

Origin and Etymology of dubious

Latin dubius, from dubare to vacillate; akin to Latin duo two — more at two

Synonym Discussion of dubious

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

DUBIOUS Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of dubious for English Language Learners

  • : unsure or uncertain : feeling doubt about something

  • : causing doubt, uncertainty, or suspicion : likely to be bad or wrong

  • —used ironically in phrases like dubious honor and dubious distinction to describe something bad or undesirable as if it were an honor or achievement

DUBIOUS Defined for Kids


adjective du·bi·ous \ ˈdü-bē-əs , ˈdyü- \

Definition of dubious for Students

1 : causing doubt : uncertain
  • Our plans are dubious at this point.
2 : feeling doubt
  • I was dubious about our chances.
3 : questionable 1
  • … they all began discussing dragon-slayings historical, dubious, and mythical …
  • —J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit



Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up dubious? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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


resembling the blue of the sky

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Spelling Words Quiz

  • alphabet-pasta-spelling-help
  • Which is the correct spelling?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

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