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

Understandably, criminal offenders may be hesitant to come to the local police station or interact with law enforcement – even if they are promised exemption from prosecution for weapon possession. Lacey Wallace, The Conversation, "Could a national gun buyback program reduce the 393 million guns on America’s streets?," 4 Aug. 2019 Chelsey Cioli, a freelance dancer and director of a physical therapy program, was hesitant to post her workout videos on Instagram in the beginning, too. Rebecca Jennings, Vox, "Why it feels like everyone on Instagram is filming their workouts," 2 Aug. 2019 That cavalier attitude was gone by 2016, but Obama was still hesitant to pick a fight. Dan Mclaughlin, National Review, "Mitch McConnell Didn’t Stop Obama from Doing Anything about Russia in 2016," 2 Aug. 2019 My experience is that other professionals are similarly hesitant. Los Angeles Times, "Column: Sports leagues will need to revisit cannabis rules as more states legalize weed," 1 Aug. 2019 But the Yankees were hesitant to move Frazier, 24, despite his defensive lapses and his past behavior that has bothered some in the organization, or Garcia, 20, who has been impressive despite doubts about his 5-foot-9 frame. James Wagner, New York Times, "Without a Bold Move, the Yankees Gamble on Their Own Discipline," 1 Aug. 2019 The Dodgers are hesitant to give up their best prospect, middle infielder Gavin Lux, but will need to part with significant young players to put themselves in a better position for a coveted title. John Shea, SFChronicle.com, "Giants-Dodgers at the MLB trade deadline is good theater," 30 July 2019 Some said their experiences would not affect their decision in the case while others were hesitant. Lawrence Andrea, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Former UW Badger Quintez Cephus says he'll get through sexual assault trial 'as long as we tell the truth'," 29 July 2019 Blais said some neighborhoods are sometimes hesitant to open their arms to Rainbow Militia, so their team is always trying to build long-term relationships. Kaitlyn Bancroft, The Know, "Come one, come all: Rainbow Militia brings a free circus to underserved Denver communities," 27 July 2019

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

7 Aug 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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a wrong name or inappropriate designation

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