cautious in one's actions: Be careful when you cross the street.
taking pains in one's work; exact; thorough: a careful typist.
(of things) done or performed with accuracy or caution: careful research.
solicitously mindful (usually followed by of, about, or in): careful of the rights of others; careful about one's behavior; careful in speech.
  1. full of anxiety or care; troubled.
  2. causing or attended with anxiety: a careful day.

Origin of careful

before 1000; Middle English; Old English carful, cearful. See care, -ful
Related formscare·ful·ly, adverbcare·ful·ness, nounqua·si-care·ful, adjectivequa·si-care·ful·ly, adverbul·tra·care·ful, adjectiveul·tra·care·ful·ly, adverb

Synonyms for careful

Synonym study

1. Careful, cautious, discreet, wary imply a watchful guarding against something. Careful implies guarding against mistakes, by paying strict and close attention to details, and, often, trying to use good judgment: He was careful to distinguish between them. Cautious implies a fear of some unfavorable situation and investigation before coming to conclusions: cautious about investments. Discreet implies being prudent in speech and action and being trustworthy as a confidant: discreet in manner, in keeping secrets. Wary implies a vigilant lookout for a danger suspected or feared: wary of polite strangers. 2, 3. See painstaking.

Antonyms for careful

1–4. careless. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for careful

Contemporary Examples of careful

Historical Examples of careful

  • This is a record and result that no careful student of our history will, I take it, deny.

    'Tis Sixty Years Since

    Charles Francis Adams

  • Andy chose the careful insult which he would throw in Buck's face.

  • I think we should be careful of our judgment as to when that state has been reached.

    Weighed and Wanting

    George MacDonald

  • But he saw Hester look anxious; and that was enough to put him on his careful honour.

    Weighed and Wanting

    George MacDonald

  • Then I hope you will be careful what houses you go into, for I hear the small-pox is in the neighborhood.

    Weighed and Wanting

    George MacDonald

British Dictionary definitions for careful



cautious in attitude or action; prudent
painstaking in one's work; thoroughhe wrote very careful script
(usually postpositive; foll by of, in, or about) solicitous; protectivecareful of one's reputation
archaic full of care; anxious
British mean or miserly
Derived Formscarefully, adverbcarefulness, noun
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

Word Origin and History for careful

Old English cearful "mournful, sad," also "full of care or woe; anxious; full of concern" (for someone or something), thus "applying attention, painstaking, circumspect;" from care (n.) + -ful.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper