alertness and prudence in a hazardous situation; care; wariness: Landslides ahead—proceed with caution.
a warning against danger or evil; anything serving as a warning: By way of caution, he told me the difficulties I would face.
Informal. a person or thing that astonishes or causes mild apprehension: She's a caution. The way he challenges your remarks is a caution.

verb (used with object)

to give warning to; advise or urge to take heed.

verb (used without object)

to warn or advise: The newspapers caution against overoptimism.

Origin of caution

1250–1300; Middle English caucion < Latin cautiōn- (stem of cautiō) a taking care, equivalent to caut(us), past participle of cavēre to guard against (cau- take care, guard + -tus past participle suffix) + -iōn- -ion
Related formscau·tion·er, nouno·ver·cau·tion, noun, verb (used with object)re·cau·tion, verb (used with object)su·per·cau·tion, nounun·cau·tioned, adjectivewell-cau·tioned, adjective

Synonyms for caution

Synonym study

4. See warn.

Antonyms for caution Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for caution

Contemporary Examples of caution

Historical Examples of caution

  • "Don't come this way," she called back, in quick, low tones of caution.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • On the fourth and fifth days, however, he had the reward for his caution.

  • At least, they would go with caution down his trail after that first check.

  • And there is one thing that I have to remember to caution Donald about.

    Her Father's Daughter

    Gene Stratton-Porter

  • John remembered his mother's caution that he was not to let his Uncle talk much.

    The Foolish Lovers

    St. John G. Ervine

British Dictionary definitions for caution



care, forethought, or prudence, esp in the face of danger; wariness
something intended or serving as a warning; admonition
law, mainly British a formal warning given to a person suspected or accused of an offence that his words will be taken down and may be used in evidence
a notice entered on the register of title to land that prevents a proprietor from disposing of his or her land without a notice to the person who entered the caution
informal an amusing or surprising person or thingshe's a real caution


(tr) to urge or warn (a person) to be careful
(tr) law, mainly British to give a caution to (a person)
(intr) to warn, urge, or advisehe cautioned against optimism
Derived Formscautioner, noun

Word Origin for caution

C13: from Old French, from Latin cautiō, from cavēre to beware
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 caution

c.1300, "bail, guarantee, pledge," from Old French caution "security, surety" (13c.), from Latin cautionem (nominative cautio) "caution, care, foresight, precaution," noun of action from past participle stem of cavere "to be on one's guard" (see caveat). The Latin sense re-emerged in English 16c.-17c. Meaning "word of warning" is from c.1600.


"to warn," 1640s, from caution (n.). Related: Cautioned; cautioning.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with caution


see throw caution to the winds.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.