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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Synonyms & Antonyms for tentative

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adjective

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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and resentment of the people to whom he spoke, but his words were somehow tentative and contingent, as if they could be withdrawn on a month's notice.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 The Senate is back in session on Monday and the tentative deadline for Senate committees to turn in a draft of the legislation is Wednesday. Rick Klein, ABC News, 13 Sep. 2021 Even with tentative but promising signs that the fourth wave of surging cases in COVID-19 in the United States, dating back to the first days of summer, was waning, without drastic measures, the fifth will be catastrophically worse. Chris Wilson, Time, 10 Sep. 2021 What distinguishes this tentative newcomer on the West Coast essayist scene? Los Angeles Times, 10 Sep. 2021 In three years, the police spending budget has grown by $21 million, or nearly 4%, from $547 million in 2019 to a tentative $568 million next year. Kevin Krause, Dallas News, 9 Sep. 2021 Notably, the tobacco giant received tentative regulatory approval to acquire U.K.-based Vectura, which produces respiratory therapies such as asthma inhalers. Q.ai - Make Genius Money Moves, Forbes, 8 Sep. 2021 Yet the old wash of relief as weather turns cool, that familiar promise of a fresh beginning — that feels tentative. Christopher Borrelli, chicagotribune.com, 8 Sep. 2021 At first, Coffman stuck to tentative, sporadic suggestions. Noam Cohen, Wired, 7 Sep. 2021 Belmondo studied acting at a private school after a tentative jab at a boxing career. Cynthia Littleton, Variety, 6 Sep. 2021

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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Time Traveler for tentative

Time Traveler

The first known use of tentative was in 1825

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Dictionary Entries Near tentative

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Statistics for tentative

Last Updated

17 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Tentative.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tentative. Accessed 20 Sep. 2021.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on tentative

Nglish: Translation of tentative for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of tentative for Arabic Speakers

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