tentative

adjective
ten·​ta·​tive | \ ˈten-tə-tiv How to pronounce tentative (audio) \

Definition of tentative

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : not fully worked out or developed tentative plans
2 : hesitant, uncertain a tentative smile

tentative

noun
plural tentatives

Definition of tentative (Entry 2 of 2)

: something that is uncertain or subject to change : something that is tentative In war, certainties have a way of becoming tentatives.The Buffalo (New York) News Seventy-nine shows have contracts to use the center between now and 2010, with 129 booked with either contracts pending or as tentatives.— Keith Reed

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Other Words from tentative

Adjective

tentatively adverb
tentativeness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for tentative

Synonyms: Adjective

conditional, contingent (on or upon), dependent, subject (to)

Antonyms: Adjective

independent, unconditional

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A "Tentative" Explanation

Tentative is from the Latin tentare (“to attempt”), and its original meaning was “attempted, provisional, experimental.” It is easy to see how this emphasis on trial and error led to the word’s current sense “not fully worked out or developed” (as in "a tentative date," "tentative plans," "a tentative job offer"). The “hesitant, uncertain” sense that is also common nowadays (as in “a tentative knock on the door”) extends the idea of an unripe attempt to the uncertain emotional state of the person making the attempt.

Examples of tentative in a Sentence

Adjective

In the winter, retirees from the Midwest fill the trailer parks. They are known with tentative affection as snowbirds. — William Langewiesche, Atlantic, June 1992 Clearly the President was chastened by the sorrow and resentment of the people to whom he spoke, but his words were somehow tentative and contingent, as if they could be withdrawn on a month's notice. — Lewis H. Lapham, Harper's, July 1992 There was a crying need, in the tentative early days of populist toryism, for a voice that could bring the gospel to the lumpen. — Christopher Hitchens, Times Literary Supplement, 30 Nov. 1990 Thus, we have a tentative picture of anatomically modern people arising in Africa over 100,000 years ago, but initially making the same tools as Neanderthals and having no advantage over them. By perhaps 60,000 years ago, some magic twist of behavior had been added to the modern anatomy. — Jared M. Diamond, Discover, May 1989 the baby's first tentative steps We have tentative plans for the weekend.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Instead, the final version of the bill takes some tentative steps forward for animals. Kelsey Piper, Vox, "Dog and cat meat is now, finally, illegal," 18 Dec. 2018 The answer varies by climate and geography, but Repasky offers a tentative timeline. Blair Donovan, Country Living, "Beekeeping for Beginners: Everything to Know About Starting Your Own Colony," 5 Apr. 2019 Duke: The Blue Devils have had too many tentative stretches in their first two games, but their overwhelming talent edge saved them against North Dakota State in the opening round and UCF in this one. Pete Iacobelli, The Seattle Times, "Williamson, Duke survive UCF’s late misses, reach Sweet 16," 25 Mar. 2019 There have been some recent, tentative signs of progress on reform, including marginally higher rates on big certificates of deposit and a slightly softer stance on wealth-management products. Nathaniel Taplin, WSJ, "How to Depress Chinese Consumers Without Really Trying," 15 Feb. 2019 His comments came following a House Ways and Means Committee meeting where Mr. Lighthizer said that the U.S. and China have reached a tentative agreement on a mechanism to enforce the trade deal, which has long been a stumbling block in talks. ... Bob Davis And William Mauldin, WSJ, "U.S. Drops Threat of 25% Tariffs on Chinese Goods in Sign That Accord Is Near," 27 Feb. 2019 News that a tentative agreement has been reached offers relief to those who worried Trump would use the lack of a deal as a reason to pull U.S. troops out of South Korea as part of negotiations with Kim. Deb Riechmann, The Seattle Times, "Trump to meet North Korean leader Feb. 27-28 in Vietnam," 6 Feb. 2019 Last week, teachers in Denver ended a three-day walkout after reaching a tentative deal raising their wages. Jocelyn Gecker, The Seattle Times, "Oakland teachers to walk off the job Thursday," 20 Feb. 2019 In the same appearance before the small-business crowd, Trump said that Congress needs to change that measure and perhaps expand that tentative deal, again throwing more chaos into an already tense situation on the Hill. Time, "President Trump Is Making It Harder for Congress to Stop Family Separations," 19 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'tentative.' 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 tentative

Adjective

1825, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun

1893, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for tentative

Adjective

borrowed from Medieval Latin tentātīvus "as a trial, experimental, provisional," from Latin temptātus, tentātus, past participle of temptāre, tentāre "to feel, test, examine" + īvus -ive — more at tempt

Noun

derivative of tentative entry 1

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Statistics for tentative

Last Updated

2 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for tentative

The first known use of tentative was in 1825

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More Definitions for tentative

tentative

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of tentative

: not done with confidence : uncertain and hesitant
: not definite : still able to be changed

tentative

adjective
ten·​ta·​tive | \ ˈten-tə-tiv How to pronounce tentative (audio) \

Kids Definition of tentative

1 : not final tentative plans
2 : showing caution or hesitation

Other Words from tentative

tentatively adverb Harriet walked toward her tentatively, as one would toward a mad dog … — Louise Fitzhugh, Harriet the Spy

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Comments on tentative

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