anx·​ious ˈaŋ(k)-shəs How to pronounce anxious (audio)
: characterized by extreme uneasiness of mind or brooding fear about some contingency : worried
anxious parents
: characterized by, resulting from, or causing anxiety : worrying
They spent an anxious night.
: ardently or earnestly wishing
She was anxious to learn more.
anxiously adverb
anxiousness noun

Did you know?

Can anxious Be Used as a Synonym for eager?

The fact that individual words can have multiple senses that are closely related in meaning is something which many people find objectionable about the English language. Anxious is an example of such a word, as people will use it to mean "worried," "eager (but with an undertone of worry)," and simply "eager."

The word has been used in the sense of "eager" for a considerable length of time, with evidence going back at least to the 17th century.

Choose the Right Synonym for anxious

eager, avid, keen, anxious, athirst mean moved by a strong and urgent desire or interest.

eager implies ardor and enthusiasm and sometimes impatience at delay or restraint.

eager to get started

avid adds to eager the implication of insatiability or greed.

avid for new thrills

keen suggests intensity of interest and quick responsiveness in action.

keen on the latest fashions

anxious emphasizes fear of frustration or failure or disappointment.

anxious not to make a social blunder

athirst stresses yearning but not necessarily readiness for action.

athirst for adventure

Examples of anxious in a Sentence

… to the eye anxious for reform in the city and forgetful of conditions in the countryside … Joseph A. Amato, Dust, 2000
He was exhausted yet exhilarated, anxious … about getting on the ice with a team that had a chance to win. Michael Farber, Sports Illustrated, 20 Mar. 2000
The individual states—fearful of losing industry and richer residents to lower-tax rivals and anxious to minimize their burden of needy citizens … Atlantic, May 1997
He was so anxious to get a fly into the water that he had to reproach himself for haste. John Cheever, The Wapshot Chronicle, 1957
She feels anxious and depressed. People are anxious about the future. He was anxious that the weather would not improve in time for the party. We experienced a few anxious moments as we waited to hear the results of the test. It was an anxious night as she waited for her children to come home. He was waiting at the door with an anxious expression on his face. He was anxious for more news. See More
Recent Examples on the Web For an anxious few months, Rubio’s return had been in doubt. Daniel Wu, Washington Post, 27 Sep. 2023 Before the reading, Reed was anxious but worked the room like a pro, flirting and glad-handing, Kronstad hovering patiently nearby. Will Hermes, New York Times, 22 Sep. 2023 Danny is agoraphobic, socially anxious, obsessive, something of a hypochondriac and nominally a journalist, that most nominal of television professions. Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times, 22 Sep. 2023 The track is quintessential Bleachers, with its distinctly 21st century, anxious energy paired with heart-on-sleeve E Street nostalgia. Jon Blistein, Rolling Stone, 20 Sep. 2023 However, Morton-Maxson found himself in a state of anxious anticipation for several weeks, as there was no definitive diagnosis provided, the release stated. Sandra Rose Salathe, Peoplemag, 16 Sep. 2023 This will also act as a political barometer for anxious Democrats. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, 14 Sep. 2023 Many in the community feel anxious about not being able to reach relatives in Tigray. Hojun Choi, Dallas News, 14 Sep. 2023 But something nevertheless felt muted and anxious in Toronto this year. Taylor Antrim, Vogue, 13 Sep. 2023 See More

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

Word History


Latin anxius "worried, disturbed, uneasy, marked by or inducing anxiety or distress" (adjective derivative from the base of angere "to choke, cause pain to, afflict, vex") + -ous — more at anger entry 1

First Known Use

1548, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of anxious was in 1548

Dictionary Entries Near anxious

Cite this Entry

“Anxious.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Oct. 2023.

Kids Definition


anx·​ious ˈaŋ(k)-shəs How to pronounce anxious (audio)
: afraid or nervous about what may happen : worried
anxious about their son's health
: desiring earnestly
anxious to make good
anxiously adverb
anxiousness noun

Medical Definition


anx·​ious ˈaŋ(k)-shəs How to pronounce anxious (audio)
: characterized by extreme uneasiness of mind or brooding fear about some contingency
anxious students
: characterized by, resulting from, or causing anxiety
an anxious time in the hospital waiting room

More from Merriam-Webster on anxious

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