• synonyms


[kair-fuh l]
See more synonyms for careful on Thesaurus.com
  1. cautious in one's actions: Be careful when you cross the street.
  2. taking pains in one's work; exact; thorough: a careful typist.
  3. (of things) done or performed with accuracy or caution: careful research.
  4. solicitously mindful (usually followed by of, about, or in): careful of the rights of others; careful about one's behavior; careful in speech.
  5. Archaic.
    1. full of anxiety or care; troubled.
    2. causing or attended with anxiety: a careful day.
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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


See more synonyms for careful on Thesaurus.com
1. watchful, guarded, chary, circumspect. 2. meticulous, discerning. 3. conscientious. 4. thoughtful, concerned, solicitous, attentive, heedful, regardful.

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.


1–4. careless.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for careful

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • 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

  • They were so careful that for many days they continued undiscovered.

    Weighed and Wanting

    George MacDonald

British Dictionary definitions for careful


  1. cautious in attitude or action; prudent
  2. painstaking in one's work; thoroughhe wrote very careful script
  3. (usually postpositive; foll by of, in, or about) solicitous; protectivecareful of one's reputation
  4. archaic full of care; anxious
  5. British mean or miserly
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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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper