warier; wariest
: marked by keen caution, cunning, and watchfulness especially in detecting and escaping danger
warily adverb
wariness noun
Choose the Right Synonym for wary

cautious, circumspect, wary, chary mean prudently watchful and discreet in the face of danger or risk.

cautious implies the exercise of forethought usually prompted by fear of danger.

a cautious driver

circumspect suggests less fear and stresses the surveying of all possible consequences before acting or deciding.

circumspect in his business dealings

wary emphasizes suspiciousness and alertness in watching for danger and cunning in escaping it.

keeps a wary eye on the competition

chary implies a cautious reluctance to give, act, or speak freely.

chary of signing papers without having read them first

Examples of wary in a Sentence

Great critics are sometimes wary of great authors. Eliot and Pound usually sidled past Shakespeare. William Logan, New York Times Book Review, 11 Feb. 2001
Though sycamore wood was much used, pioneers were wary of the tree's fuzzy leaves, which they believed brought allergies and even consumption. Arthur Plotnik, The Urban Tree Book: An Uncommon Field Guide for City and Town, 2000
Modern literary novelists … wary of neat solutions and happy endings, have tended to invest their mysteries with an aura of ambiguity and to leave them unresolved. David Lodge, The Art of Fiction, 1992
The store owner kept a wary eye on him. Investors are increasingly wary about putting money into stocks.
Recent Examples on the Web Unless those assets are sold off first, any attempt to reunite the companies could run into opposition from those News Corp shareholders, who are wary of circumstances that would allow Rupert Murdoch to sell to himself at a discount. Benjamin Mullin, New York Times, 22 Sep. 2023 When looking at electric sharpeners, be wary of ones with only one sharpening stage. Meg Carney, Field & Stream, 21 Sep. 2023 However, Alix is still wary of sharing too much about her family online. Rebecca Aizin, Peoplemag, 21 Sep. 2023 In a quip characteristic of the mercurial judge, Carter warned reporters after the hearing to be wary of describing the ruling with a finality that could turn out wrong. Doug Smith, Los Angeles Times, 20 Sep. 2023 Attention to detail Be wary of the subtle signs of phishing emails. Kurt Knutsson, Fox News, 18 Sep. 2023 That said, don’t be wary of negotiating — many influencers may send a deck with set prices, but could be willing to accommodate to fit your budget, especially if there’s a possibility for a long-term working relationship. Arshad Lasi, Rolling Stone, 18 Sep. 2023 This much opportunity is wonderful, but be wary of indulging yourself past sensibility. Tarot Astrologers, Chicago Tribune, 17 Sep. 2023 That’s a steep hill to climb, given most senators share Paxton’s political ideology and are wary of sparking anger with the hard-right base of the Republican Party. Gromer Jeffers Jr., Dallas News, 8 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'wary.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


ware entry 2 + -y entry 1

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of wary was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near wary

Cite this Entry

“Wary.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wary. Accessed 30 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


ˈwa(ə)r-ē How to pronounce wary (audio)
warier; wariest
: very cautious
especially : being on guard against danger or trickery
wary of strangers

More from Merriam-Webster on wary

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