adjective gin·ger·ly \ ˈjin-jər-lē \
|Updated on: 12 Jun 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



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




Definition of gingerly

: 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

First Known Use of gingerly


in the meaning defined above

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GINGERLY Defined for Kids


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

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the quality or state of being insatiable

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