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 money
careful 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

Examples of careful in a Sentence

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 Covering so many characters requires careful choreography, especially as the kitchen spirals out of control during the lunchtime surge. Peter Debruge, Variety, 16 Feb. 2024 In the end, the journey towards strategic excellence is both iterative and dynamic, demanding a careful balance between consistency and flexibility. Benjamin Laker, Forbes, 15 Feb. 2024 As inspiring as browsing the nursery can be, be careful not to load up on an eclectic mix of new-to-you plants that won’t thrive in the garden. Kristin Guy, Sunset Magazine, 15 Feb. 2024 Keep height and weight limits in mind Pay careful attention to the height and weight limit for your specific car seat because these are used in safety tests and procedures. Jessica Booth, Parents, 14 Feb. 2024 Police encouraged people to be skeptical, careful and savvy. Julia Daye, Miami Herald, 12 Feb. 2024 The Chiefs had been mostly careful with the ball throughout the postseason, but with the 49ers on their heels after the long completion, Pacheco gave it away. Blair Kerkhoff, Kansas City Star, 12 Feb. 2024 The teachers dance a careful ballet around topics that could unsettle their students. Joseph Ataman, CNN, 12 Feb. 2024 No cask finishing or other whisky gimmicks were used, just the careful selection and blending of some of the distillery’s best barrels resulting in yet another bottle for scotch fans to hunt down. Jonah Flicker, Robb Report, 4 Feb. 2024 See More

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

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 24 Feb. 2024.

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
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!