gingerly

adjective gin·ger·ly \ ˈjin-jər-lē \
Updated on: 28 Feb 2018

Definition of gingerly

: 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

gingerly

adverb
    • moving gingerly
    • He gingerly sorted the fragile flowers.

gingerly was our Word of the Day on 09/17/2013. Hear the podcast!

Examples of gingerly in a Sentence

  1. gave the cork on the bottle of champagne a gingerly twist

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."

Origin and Etymology of gingerly

perhaps from 1ginger

GINGERLY Defined for Kids

gingerly

adverb gin·ger·ly \ ˈjin-jər-lē \

Definition of gingerly for Students

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


Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up gingerly? 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!

WORD OF THE DAY

unwilling or reluctant

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Odd Habits and Quirks Quiz

  • image1926873504
  • Which of the following best describes an easily irritated person?
True or False

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

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

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

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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