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[wair-ee] /ˈwɛər i/
adjective, warier, wariest.
watchful; being on one's guard against danger.
arising from or characterized by caution:
to give someone a wary look.
Origin of wary
First recorded in 1545-55; ware2 + -y1
Related forms
warily, adverb
wariness, noun
overwary, adjective
Can be confused
wary, weary, leery.
1. alert, vigilant, guarded, circumspect, prudent.
Synonym Study
1. See careful. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for wary
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Tranter, cunning and wary from years of fighting, knew that his chance had come.

    The White Company Arthur Conan Doyle
  • But when they reached Rhegium, the wary Spartan was already beyond their reach.

  • The very lavishness arouses suspicion in the minds of the wary.

    In the Heart of Vosges Matilda Betham-Edwards
  • But the wary and vigilant leader of the Hurons was not so easily disconcerted.

    The Last of the Mohicans James Fenimore Cooper
  • He sought no return fire, but lay in the dip, wary and patient.

    The Rock of Chickamauga Joseph A. Altsheler
British Dictionary definitions for wary


adjective warier, wariest
watchful, cautious, or alert
characterized by caution or watchfulness
Derived Forms
warily, adverb
wariness, noun
Word Origin
C16: from ware² + -y1
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 wary

1550s, from Old English wær "prudent, aware, alert, wary," from Proto-Germanic *waraz (cf. Old Norse varr "attentive," Gothic wars "cautious," Old Saxon giwar, Middle Dutch gheware, Old High German giwar, German gewahr "aware"), from PIE root *wer- "to cover" (see weir). Related: Warily; wariness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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