hes·​i·​tant | \ ˈhe-zə-tənt How to pronounce hesitant (audio) \

Definition of hesitant

: 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

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Other Words from hesitant

hesitantly adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for hesitant


cagey (also cagy), disinclined, dubious, indisposed, loath (also loth), reluctant, reticent


disposed, inclined

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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

While large companies seem more hesitant, small businesses are showing more optimism, said Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at Glassdoor, the jobs site. Nelson D. Schwartz, New York Times, "A Weak Jobs Report Poses a New Challenge to Trump: A Slowing Economy," 7 June 2019 The drama — the human story — is largely left to the imagination, in no small part because Howard seems hesitant to fully explore it. Kerry Lengel, azcentral, "In 'Pavarotti' documentary, Ron Howard hits high notes but skimps on drama," 5 June 2019 Despite mounting pressure by stem cell scientists and consumer protection advocates to force the for-profit clinics to stop selling unproven therapies, the FDA had seemed hesitant to step in. Erin Allday, SFChronicle.com, "Ruling against stem cell clinic has repercussions for industry, Calif. firm," 4 June 2019 Many large companies are hesitant—or legally unable—to move all their computing needs to public cloud networks such as Amazon’s. Dan Gallagher, WSJ, "Amazon’s Cloud Hasn’t Obscured Microsoft," 7 Dec. 2018 Kulesa is hesitant to even try to predict future growth for Margle. Sarah Hauer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "This company will make you go viral. How a Milwaukee company gets 1 billion views a month," 6 Apr. 2018 Some people are hesitant about continuing the story. Caroline Hallemann, Town & Country, "Will There Be a Third Season of Big Little Lies?," 27 Nov. 2018 Brazilian lawmakers have been hesitant to allow any deal, fearing the loss of control of a major industrial and defense asset. BostonGlobe.com, "Wynn Resorts losing high-profile general counsel," 5 July 2018 Multiple media outlets received copies but were understandably hesitant to publish its contents, which included unproven allegations about Trump and his inner circle. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "Anatomy of a Pro-Trump Conspiracy Theory," 22 May 2018

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

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First Known Use of hesitant

1647, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for hesitant

see hesitate

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Statistics for hesitant

Last Updated

12 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for hesitant

The first known use of hesitant was in 1647

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More Definitions for hesitant



English Language Learners Definition of hesitant

: slow to act or speak especially because you are nervous or unsure about what to do : feeling or showing hesitation


hes·​i·​tant | \ ˈhe-zə-tənt How to pronounce hesitant (audio) \

Kids Definition of hesitant

: feeling or showing unwillingness to do something because of doubt or nervousness I was hesitant to join in.

Other Words from hesitant

hesitantly adverb Toby read … hesitantly, as if he didn't really believe what he was saying … — Zilpha Keatley Snyder, The Egypt Game

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More from Merriam-Webster on hesitant

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for hesitant

Spanish Central: Translation of hesitant

Nglish: Translation of hesitant for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of hesitant for Arabic Speakers

Comments on hesitant

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