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
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective 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, "Cracking Open the Ordinary in the Plays of Richard Nelson," 26 May 2020

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

First Known Use of gingerly


1611, 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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Time Traveler for gingerly

Time Traveler

The first known use of gingerly was in 1596

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Cite this Entry

“Gingerly.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Mar. 2021.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on gingerly

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for gingerly

Nglish: Translation of gingerly for Spanish Speakers

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