: desiring, intending, professing, or having the potential to be
tips for would-be mothers and fathers
The conference, held over the Labor Day weekend, drew 1200 to 1300 writers and would-be writers to the Hawaiian island this year …John F. Baker
Possibly the most hilarious and outrageous character was Joey Tribbiani, a would-be actor who struggles to find success in his chosen profession …The Cheat Sheet
She's a clueless, would-be do-gooder without much self-awareness.Maureen Ryan

Examples of would-be in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web What does McDonald's new Grandma's McFlurry taste like? Ahead of the release of Grandma's McFlurry, some would-be samplers wondered whether the treat might taste like butter pecan, butterscotch, strawberry or perhaps peppermint. Mike Snider, USA TODAY, 21 May 2024 Veteran civil rights attorney Richard Herman is even risking $100,000 of his own money to help post the would-be bond and is offering Martinez a job at his law firm if bail is granted. Tony Saavedra, Orange County Register, 19 May 2024 Rizzo wasn't the only one commemorating Saget's would-be birthday. Esther Kang, Peoplemag, 17 May 2024 The same could be said of Eden’s would-be partner Claude (Stephan James), whose time in the movie is brief but impactful. Rebecca Sun, The Hollywood Reporter, 17 May 2024 There’s a scene in a later episode where Huey watches a Shaft movie in a theater while would-be assassins shoot up the deli where he’s supposed to be. Alan Sepinwall, Rolling Stone, 16 May 2024 What could be more abusive or obscene than unilaterally absolving the would-be insurrectionists, nearly 900 currently, who have been fairly prosecuted and sentenced according to the rule of law that a president is sworn to uphold? Jackie Calmes, The Mercury News, 15 May 2024 On paper, there’s plenty of compelling projects for buyers, even if the crop of movies are lower-budgeted than some of the would-be blockbusters that inspired bidding wars at past festivals. John Hopewell, Variety, 14 May 2024 Bulgaria’s most enduring would-be savior is Boyko Borissov, a three-time prime minister and former bodyguard who first rose to prominence as the mayor of Sofia, presenting himself as Bulgaria’s Batman — a tough, no-nonsense avenger who would rid Gotham of corruption and instability. Andrew Higgins, New York Times, 8 May 2024

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

Word History

First Known Use

1647, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of would-be was in 1647

Dictionary Entries Near would-be

Cite this Entry

“Would-be.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/would-be. Accessed 26 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


: desiring, intending, or pretending to be
a would-be poet
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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