care·​ful ˈker-fəl How to pronounce careful (audio)
carefuller; carefullest
: marked by wary caution or prudence
be very careful with knives
: marked by attentive concern and solicitude
careful farm management
: marked by painstaking effort to avoid errors or omissions
often used with of or an infinitive
careful of moneycareful to adjust the machine
: exercising or taking care
careful of a child's welfare
: filling with care or solicitude
carefully adverb
carefulness noun
Choose the Right Synonym for careful

careful, meticulous, scrupulous, punctilious mean showing close attention to detail.

careful implies attentiveness and cautiousness in avoiding mistakes.

a careful worker

meticulous may imply either commendable extreme carefulness or a hampering finicky caution over small points.

meticulous scholarship

scrupulous applies to what is proper or fitting or ethical.

scrupulous honesty

punctilious implies minute, even excessive attention to fine points.

punctilious observance of ritual

Example Sentences

He is a careful driver. You can never be too careful about these things. Be careful! The stove is hot! She was careful of their feelings. The police were careful to leave the room exactly as they found it. Police made a careful examination of the scene. They produced a careful study of the building. See More
Recent Examples on the Web Coupled with the extra bounciness, those with low ceilings should be careful. Lacey Muinos, Health, 27 Jan. 2023 That of course, would become a sightline problem, so just take it slow and be careful. Matthew J. Palm, Orlando Sentinel, 26 Jan. 2023 The ministry also warned people to be careful when handling the bodies of cholera victims and preparing them for funerals. Nimi Princewill, CNN, 26 Jan. 2023 One of the officers warns the other to be careful because Dearman might have a gun. San Diego Union-Tribune, 26 Jan. 2023 If business leaders are not careful, a company’s purpose can get buried under a pile of policies and procedures. Jerremy Alexander Newsome, Forbes, 25 Jan. 2023 Just know that Lake Superior is very unforgiving of mistakes; be careful out there. David Zeug, Outdoor Life, 22 Jan. 2023 Be careful, as this is a one-time deal and does not apply to future deposits. al, 15 Jan. 2023 The threat hasn’t gone away though, say security experts, and could make a resurgence if the industry isn’t careful. IEEE Spectrum, 28 Dec. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'careful.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


see care entry 1

First Known Use

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3a

Time Traveler
The first known use of careful was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near careful

Cite this Entry

“Careful.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition


care·​ful ˈke(ə)r-fəl How to pronounce careful (audio)
: using care : watchful
a careful driver
: made, done, or said with care
a careful examination
carefully adverb
carefulness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on careful

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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