gin·​ger·​ly | \ ˈjin-jər-lē How to pronounce gingerly (audio) \

Definition of gingerly

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: very cautious or careful … loose, exfoliated rock, into which he hammered pitons with the gingerly care of a carpenter finishing cabinets.— David Roberts His questions were gingerly and puzzled.— John Skow



Definition of gingerly (Entry 2 of 2)

: with extreme care concerning the result of a movement or action : very cautiously and carefully These working dogs know how to use their jaws gingerly, without exerting undue pressure in handling the livestock.American West Today, IVF specialists around the world routinely incubate human eggs and sperm in a laboratory dish and then gingerly transfer a fertilized egg to the mother's uterus.— Kathy A. Fackelmann Nick Price sat on a cheap folding chair as a group of somber journalists arrived, intending to gingerly ask him how it was that one of the world's best players had just shot an 82 in the third round of the 1998 British Open.— Jeff Williams

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Other Words from gingerly


gingerliness noun

Did You Know?

Etymologists take a gingerly approach to assigning any particular origins to this word. While it might have come from the name of the spice, there's nothing concrete to back up that idea. Another conjecture is that it's related to an Old French word, gensor, that meant "delicate." That's because in 16th century English an earlier sense of "gingerly" often referred to dancing or walking with dainty steps. Not till the 17th century did it change to apply to movements that were cautious in order to avoid being noisy or causing injury, and to a wary manner in handling or presenting ideas. Not too surprisingly, given its "-ly" ending, "gingerly" is also quite often correctly used as an adverb. One could thus say that "she rotated his shoulder gingerly."

Examples of gingerly in a Sentence

Adjective gave the cork on the bottle of champagne a gingerly twist

First Known Use of gingerly


1604, in the meaning defined above


1596, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for gingerly


perhaps from ginger entry 1

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Learn More about gingerly

Time Traveler for gingerly

Time Traveler

The first known use of gingerly was in 1596

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Cite this Entry

“Gingerly.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 21 November 2019.

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More Definitions for gingerly



English Language Learners Definition of gingerly

: very carefully


gin·​ger·​ly | \ ˈjin-jər-lē How to pronounce gingerly (audio) \

Kids Definition of gingerly

: very carefully The robbers gingerly lifted the covers and peeked out …— Robert McCloskey, Homer Price

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More from Merriam-Webster on gingerly

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for gingerly

Spanish Central: Translation of gingerly

Nglish: Translation of gingerly for Spanish Speakers

Comments on gingerly

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