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 Buckley was raised by a daughter of the Old South and was by temperament wary of sharp change. Neal B. Freeman, National Review, 7 Apr. 2024 Strategies to deter wolves from livestock include tying streamers or blinking lights to fences to make the predators wary of crossing into ranches. Jesse Bedayn, Fortune, 3 Apr. 2024 South Korean officials are wary of potential penalties that export controls may trigger from Beijing when major firms such as Samsung Electronics Co. and SK Hynix Inc. still operate in China, Seoul’s largest trading partner. Mackenzie Hawkins, Fortune Asia, 2 Apr. 2024 The United States, Israel’s most dependable but increasingly wary ally, has repeatedly backed Israeli assessments that Hamas and other Gaza militants have used Al-Shifa as a command hub to hold hostages and store weapons. Jessie Yeung, CNN, 1 Apr. 2024 But Chinese aerospace jobs are generally connected to the military, and American institutions had become wary of training such students. Peter Hessler, The New Yorker, 1 Apr. 2024 Learn how to identify, locate, hunt, and cook these wary gobblers | Hunting SHARE The eastern wild turkey is the most abundant and widely distributed subspecies of turkey in North America. M.d. Johnson, Field & Stream, 27 Mar. 2024 While there are still many questions to be answered, and some investors are wary, most remain bullish on Ohtani and his future career and potential — as a ballplayer and marketable athlete. Samantha Masunaga, Los Angeles Times, 27 Mar. 2024 But commodity farmers are wary of modifications to the crop insurance program. Patrick Cooley, New York Times, 27 Mar. 2024

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 18 Apr. 2024.

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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