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[ten-tuh-tiv] /ˈtɛn tə tɪv/
of the nature of or made or done as a trial, experiment, or attempt; experimental:
a tentative report on her findings.
unsure; uncertain; not definite or positive; hesitant:
a tentative smile on his face.
Origin of tentative
1580-90; < Medieval Latin tentātīvus, equivalent to Latin tentāt(us) (past participle of tentāre, variant of temptāre to test; see tempt) + -īvus -ive
Related forms
tentatively, adverb
tentativeness, noun
nontentative, adjective
nontentatively, adverb
nontentativeness, noun
pretentative, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for tentative
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • "Porter tells me Lucretia is good business," said Danby, in a tentative tone.

    Thoroughbreds W. A. Fraser
  • At length the most daring of the "patriots" emitted a tentative hiss.

  • Then he took a tentative step and lifted his hand from its support.

    Louisiana Lou William West Winter
  • As his words are few and his manner reticent and tentative, so must the style of his interpreter be.

    The Republic Plato
  • Then he broke in upon the tentative conversation which follows an introduction.

    The Dominant Strain Anna Chapin Ray
British Dictionary definitions for tentative


provisional or experimental; conjectural
hesitant, uncertain, or cautious
Derived Forms
tentatively, adverb
tentativeness, noun
Word Origin
C16: from Medieval Latin tentātīvus, from Latin tentāre to test
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 tentative

1580s, from Medieval Latin tentativus "trying, testing," from Latin tentatus, past participle of tentare "to feel, try," (variant of temptare "to feel, try, test"). Related: Tentatively.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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