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and resentment of the people to whom he spoke, but his words were somehow tentative and contingent, as if they could be withdrawn on a month's notice.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

Both fighters are content to stand early, with the action largely tentative. Todd Martin, latimes.com, "UFC 239: Jon Jones defeats Thiago Santos; Nunes stops Holm," 6 July 2019 A few years after the megachurch, Ms. Williamson began her tentative steps into politics. Sam Kestenbaum, New York Times, "The Curious Mystical Text Behind Marianne Williamson’s Presidential Bid," 5 July 2019 Sudan’s military junta and protest leaders reached a truce to share power, marking a tentative end to months of protests and violent crackdowns and setting out a blueprint for democratic rule for the first time in three decades. Justin Scheck, WSJ, "Sudan Rivals Agree to Share Power, Envoy Says," 5 July 2019 Peter and Mary Jane Watson came from a lower-class neighborhood, and over the course of Raimi’s three films, the couple scratched out a tentative hold on a more stable life in Manhattan. Emily Todd Vanderwerff, Vox, "Spider-Man: Far From Home turns a class-conscious hero into a tech bro," 3 July 2019 Now, in addition to the existing makeup and skin-care lines and the tentative hair-care and baby-product lines, Jenner appears to be interested in launching a beverage biz — specifically the alcoholic kind. Marci Robin, Allure, "Kylie Jenner May Be Launching a Line of Alcoholic Beverages," 29 June 2019 Amid this tentative evolution, Kabir Singh, telling the story of a man from his perspective with the female lead being absent for most of the second half, comes across as a movie of a time past. Ananya Bhattacharya, Quartz India, "Dear woke India, where were you before Kabir Singh?," 28 June 2019 Only in the last couple years have several of these groups begun cautiously embracing calls for decriminalization, but even that remains tentative. Scott W. Stern, Time, "Sex Workers Are an Important Part of the Stonewall Story, But Their Role Has Been Forgotten," 27 June 2019 A few Fed watchers foresee no rate cut at all this year, especially if the U.S. and China reach some tentative resolution to the trade war. CBS News, "The Fed may reach a new view of where rates are headed," 19 June 2019

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

11 Jul 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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