hes·​i·​tant ˈhe-zə-tənt How to pronounce hesitant (audio)
: slow to act or proceed (as from fear, indecision, or unwillingness) : tending to hesitate : showing or feeling reluctance or hesitation
took a hesitant step towards the door
hesitant about accepting the job
hesitantly adverb
Choose the Right Synonym for hesitant

disinclined, hesitant, reluctant, loath, averse mean lacking the will or desire to do something indicated.

disinclined implies lack of taste for or inclination.

disinclined to move again
disinclined for reading

hesitant implies a holding back especially through fear or uncertainty.

hesitant about asking for a date

reluctant implies a holding back through unwillingness.

a reluctant witness

loath implies hesitancy because of conflict with one's opinions, predilections, or liking.

seems loath to trust anyone

averse implies a holding back from or avoiding because of distaste or repugnance.

averse to hard work
not averse to an occasional drink

Examples of hesitant in a Sentence

She took a hesitant step back from the door. He seems hesitant about accepting the job.
Recent Examples on the Web Image Image Soldiers familiar with the fight were hesitant to publicly criticize a neighboring brigade and said a host of issues — from poor communication to being vastly outgunned — all likely played a role. Marc Santora Tyler Hicks, New York Times, 14 May 2024 Nobody knows, but Big 12 officials are hesitant to add a basketball powerhouse before knowing how the settlement math will play out. Jon Wilner, The Mercury News, 12 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for hesitant 

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

Word History


see hesitate

First Known Use

1647, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of hesitant was in 1647

Dictionary Entries Near hesitant

Cite this Entry

“Hesitant.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hesitant. Accessed 29 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


hes·​i·​tant ˈhez-ə-tənt How to pronounce hesitant (audio)
: tending to hesitate : slow to act or proceed
hesitantly adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on hesitant

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