pru·​dent ˈprü-dᵊnt How to pronounce prudent (audio)
: characterized by, arising from, or showing prudence: such as
: marked by wisdom or judiciousness
prudent advice
: shrewd in the management of practical affairs
prudent investors
: marked by circumspection : discreet
prudently adverb

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It Is Prudent to Read Up on This Word History

Prudent arrived in Middle English around the 14th century and traces back, by way of Middle French, to the Latin verb providēre, meaning "to see ahead, foresee, provide (for). "Providēre" combines pro-, meaning "before, and vidēre, meaning "to see, and it may look familiar to you; it is also the source of our "provide," "provident," "provision," and "improvise." "Vidēre" also has many English offspring, including "evident," "supervise," "video," and "vision."

Choose the Right Synonym for prudent

wise, sage, sapient, judicious, prudent, sensible, sane mean having or showing sound judgment.

wise suggests great understanding of people and of situations and unusual discernment and judgment in dealing with them.

wise beyond his tender years

sage suggests wide experience, great learning, and wisdom.

the sage advice of my father

sapient suggests great sagacity and discernment.

the sapient musings of an old philosopher

judicious stresses a capacity for reaching wise decisions or just conclusions.

judicious parents using kindness and discipline in equal measure

prudent suggests the exercise of restraint guided by sound practical wisdom and discretion.

a prudent decision to wait out the storm

sensible applies to action guided and restrained by good sense and rationality.

a sensible woman who was not fooled by flattery

sane stresses mental soundness, rationality, and levelheadedness.

remained sane even in times of crises

Example Sentences

An endless war is not always the most moral or the most prudent course of action. Richard A. Posner, New Republic, 2 Sept. 2002
We missed the Mass for St. Rose of Lima, who, though prudent, had failed to be martyred and was therefore only second-string. Darryl Pinckney, High Cotton, 1992
Prudent burners take several precautions. Burning one of two bordering fields, they wet the edge of one or the other, usually the one being burned, to prevent the flames from jumping. Alec Wilkinson, Big Sugar, 1989
Since the inexplicable power of a magnetized needle to "find" the north smacked of black magic …  . For many decades the prudent sea captain consulted his compass secretly. Daniel J. Boorstin, The Discoverers, 1983
He always listened to her prudent advice. You made a prudent choice. See More
Recent Examples on the Web Commissioners must then decide how much of Georgia Power’s spending was prudent while disallowing wasted amounts. Jeff Amy, Fortune, 25 May 2023 Promoting safe and responsible storage of firearms is both prudent and effective. Bill Frist, Forbes, 3 May 2023 General manager Rafael Stone took the prudent path when he was effectively forced to trade James Harden, opting to bottom out with a haul of Brooklyn draft picks rather than acquire Ben Simmons plus a smaller package of assets from Philadelphia. Michael Shapiro, Chron, 27 Jan. 2023 Hiring a pro is a prudent choice after a major life change like getting married or divorced, having a baby, buying or selling a home or business, experiencing a major health issue, or retiring. Medora Lee, USA TODAY, 27 Jan. 2023 This would be a prudent pick for the Panthers after trading Christian McCaffrey and with D'Onta Foreman facing free agency. San Diego Union-Tribune, 21 Dec. 2022 Beyond that, setting aside a sliver of your cash for a rainy day is prudent. Suchita Nayar,, 17 May 2023 Calvin Watkins Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah: The Cowboys could use another playmaker on offense, and seeing how Dak Prescott uses the tight end getting one of the better pass catching players at that position is prudent. Sportsday Staff, Dallas News, 29 Apr. 2023 That is not only not present here, but if anything, there is disagreement even within Republican ranks as to whether that’s prudent. Catie Edmondson, New York Times, 25 Apr. 2023 See More

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

Word History


Middle English, from Middle French, from Latin prudent-, prudens, contraction of provident-, providens — more at provident

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of prudent was in the 14th century


Dictionary Entries Near prudent

Cite this Entry

“Prudent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Jun. 2023.

Kids Definition


pru·​dent ˈprüd-ᵊnt How to pronounce prudent (audio)
: clever and careful in action and judgment
it's prudent to save some of your money
: frugal
prudently adverb

Legal Definition


pru·​dent ˈprüd-ᵊnt How to pronounce prudent (audio)
: characterized by, arising from, or showing prudence
prudently adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on prudent

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