tentative

adjective
ten·​ta·​tive | \ˈten-tə-tiv \

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resentment of the people to whom he spoke, but his words were somehow tentative and contingent, as if they could be withdrawn on a month's notice.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

The setup may seem contrived but the tentative friendship never strains credulity. Anna Mundow, WSJ, "‘Paris Echo’ Review: The Light Behind the Veil," 8 Nov. 2018 The tentative contract must be approved by seven of the council’s nine members, who cannot amend the terms. Steve Miletich, The Seattle Times, "Federal judge questions whether Seattle police-union contract in keeping with ‘spirit’ of reforms," 5 Nov. 2018 And here's the really weird part: The tentative exomoon seems to be as big as Neptune. John Wenz, Popular Mechanics, "We're Close To Confirming the Very First Exomoon," 3 Oct. 2018 Ahead of news about a tentative Thursday meeting, a senior White House official had told Fox News that the Ford team's letter represented a request to continue negotiations without any firm commitment. Adam Shaw, Fox News, "Tentative agreement reached for Kavanaugh-Ford hearing on Thursday, source says," 2 Oct. 2018 Ireland's tentative speculation about her cousin's relationship is markedly different from comments recently made by her father, Alec Baldwin, about his niece's maybe-wedding. Andrea Park, Teen Vogue, "Hailey Baldwin and Justin Bieber's Relationship Has Been "Meant to Be" for a While, per Cousin Ireland Baldwin," 24 Sep. 2018 Two weeks after the Lasell deal collapsed, UMass trustees announced a tentative deal, which later became final, to buy the Mount Ida campus in Newton and allow students from the closed school to transfer to UMass Dartmouth. Laura Krantz, BostonGlobe.com, "Mount Ida president blames closure on Lasell College maneuvers," 9 July 2018 But multiple sources suggested to Fox News that news of the tentative deal was an effort to short-circuit immigration discussions and allow moderates to forge ahead with using the discharge petition next week. Gregg Re, Fox News, "Tentative GOP deal on visas for 'Dreamers' throws talks on immigration bill into chaos," 7 June 2018 But none of her fellow commissioners had an appetite for setting a higher tentative tax rate. Jerry Fallstrom, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Lake says not enough money to fund sheriff's $9.8 million budget increase request," 13 July 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

Medieval Latin tentativus, from Latin tentatus, past participle of tentare, temptare to feel, try

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Statistics for tentative

Last Updated

14 Nov 2018

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
ten·​ta·​tive | \ˈten-tə-tiv \

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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