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gin·​ger·​ly ˈjin-jər-lē How to pronounce gingerly (audio)
: 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
gingerliness noun


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: 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

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, which 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, as in "they moved gingerly on the icy pond."

Examples of gingerly in a Sentence

Adjective gave the cork on the bottle of champagne a gingerly twist
Recent Examples on the Web
Unlike the gingerly approach to easing restrictions targeting the spread of the virus, the country is split over reopening businesses and schools. Kendall Karson, ABC News, 7 Mar. 2021 All the while, amid the unpacking of groceries and food prep and reminiscing, the group addresses in gingerly fashion the subject of Rose’s cancer. Alexandra Enders, The New York Review of Books, 26 May 2020
And while European defense firms are gingerly opening operations in Ukraine, major American weapons producers have yet to commit to setting up shop in the middle of a war. Lara Jakes, New York Times, 2 Apr. 2024 But there was also distinct sense of nominees gingerly crossing a tightrope, trying not to say or do anything that could lose them all that carefully honed goodwill. Jada Yuan, Washington Post, 29 Feb. 2024 Brown lay on the field for a couple of minutes, walked gingerly to the the medical tent favoring his right left and then went to the Eagles locker room. Dan Gelston, USA TODAY, 7 Jan. 2024 Inside his ramshackle Westside home, Wally gingerly positioned his bony frame sideways on an armrest of his recliner and played the role of raconteur, narrating remarkable stories about our lineage. Erik Himmelsbach-Weinstein, Los Angeles Times, 7 Mar. 2024 Medina, who’s battling rookie Joe Boyle for the fifth spot in Oakland’s rotation, gingerly walked off the mound with manager Mark Kotsay and assistant trainer Brad LaRosa in the second inning of what would become a ghastly 15-8 loss to the Reds. Jon Becker, The Mercury News, 5 Mar. 2024 British newspapers have treated paparazzi photos gingerly since the death of Princess Diana, William’s mother, in a car crash in Paris in 1997, after a high-speed pursuit by photographers. Mark Landler, New York Times, 5 Mar. 2024 Jackson gingerly walked off the field with a knee injury on the Lions' second-to-last possession of the first half after blocking on a David Montgomery run. Jared Ramsey, Detroit Free Press, 21 Jan. 2024 Johnson gingerly walked to the sideline, pointing at his left ankle. Jordan Mendoza, USA TODAY, 8 Jan. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'gingerly.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



perhaps from ginger entry 1

First Known Use


1611, in the meaning defined above


1596, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of gingerly was in 1596

Dictionary Entries Near gingerly

Cite this Entry

“Gingerly.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


gin·​ger·​ly ˈjin-jər-lē How to pronounce gingerly (audio)
: very carefully

More from Merriam-Webster on gingerly

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