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[dout-fuh l] /ˈdaʊt fəl/
of uncertain outcome or result.
admitting of or causing doubt; uncertain; ambiguous.
unsettled in opinion or belief; undecided; hesitating.
of equivocal or questionable character:
His tactics are highly doubtful.
Origin of doubtful
First recorded in 1350-1400, doubtful is from the Middle English word douteful. See doubt, -ful
Related forms
doubtfully, adverb
doubtfulness, noun
predoubtful, adjective
predoubtfully, adverb
quasi-doubtful, adjective
quasi-doubtfully, adverb
undoubtful, adjective
undoubtfully, adverb
undoubtfulness, noun
1. undetermined, unsettled, indecisive, dubious, problematic. 2. unsure, indeterminate. 3. irresolute, vacillating, hesitant. 4. shady.
1, 2. certain.
Synonym Study
3.Doubtful, dubious, incredulous, skeptical imply reluctance or unwillingness to be convinced. To be doubtful about something is to feel that it is open to question or that more evidence is needed to prove it: to be doubtful about the statements of witnesses. Dubious implies vacillation, unsureness, or suspicion: dubious about suggested methods of manufacture. Incredulous means unwilling or reluctant to believe: incredulous at the good news. Skeptical implies a general disposition to doubt or question: skeptical of human progress.
Usage note
See doubt. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for doubtfully
Historical Examples
  • For an instant, he hesitated while the others regarded him doubtfully.

    Within the Law Marvin Dana
  • Now, every man who was a handful or two short of his crop began to look at us doubtfully.

    The Trail Book Mary Austin
  • Jethro looked at her doubtfully, and then, as she smiled at him, he smiled also.

    Tiverton Tales Alice Brown
  • Little Dorrit looked at him doubtfully, and not without alarm. '

    Little Dorrit Charles Dickens
  • The guard watched us doubtfully, and angrily, but he let us pass.

    Priestess of the Flame Sewell Peaslee Wright
  • Pache doubtfully replied, "it is not for any pleasure of mine that I am here—but the gendarmes—"

    The Downfall Emile Zola
  • “If you need money—to pay the fine,” began Solange, doubtfully.

    Louisiana Lou William West Winter
  • "That sounds more like musical comedy," said Eric doubtfully.

    The Education of Eric Lane Stephen McKenna
  • "Edward says they're all rot, too," replied Charlotte, doubtfully.

    The Golden Age Kenneth Grahame
  • "Maybe I'd better leave you the lantern," he said, doubtfully.

    Thankful's Inheritance Joseph C. Lincoln
British Dictionary definitions for doubtfully


unlikely; improbable
characterized by or causing doubt; uncertain: a doubtful answer
unsettled; unresolved
of questionable reputation or morality
having reservations or misgivings
(of a sportsperson) not likely to be fit enough to play or take part
a person who is undecided or uncertain about an issue
a sportsperson who is not likely to be fit enough to play or take part
Derived Forms
doubtfully, adverb
doubtfulness, noun
Usage note
It was formerly considered correct to use whether after doubtful (it is doubtful whether he will come), but now if and that are also acceptable
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for doubtfully



late 14c., from doubt (n.) + -ful. Related: Doubtfully; doubtfulness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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