View synonyms for doubtful


[ dout-fuhl ]


  1. of uncertain outcome or result.

    Synonyms: undetermined, problematic, dubious, indecisive, unsettled

    Antonyms: certain

  2. admitting of or causing doubt; uncertain; ambiguous.

    Synonyms: unsure, indeterminate

    Antonyms: certain

  3. unsettled in opinion or belief; undecided; hesitating.

    Synonyms: hesitant, vacillating, irresolute

  4. of equivocal or questionable character:

    His tactics are highly doubtful.

    Synonyms: shady


/ ˈdaʊtfʊl /


  1. unlikely; improbable
  2. characterized by or causing doubt; uncertain

    a doubtful answer

  3. unsettled; unresolved
  4. of questionable reputation or morality
  5. having reservations or misgivings
  6. (of a sportsperson) not likely to be fit enough to play or take part


  1. a person who is undecided or uncertain about an issue
  2. a sportsperson who is not likely to be fit enough to play or take part

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Usage Note

See doubt.

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It was formerly considered correct to use whether after doubtful (it is doubtful whether he will come), but now if and that are also acceptable

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Derived Forms

  • ˈdoubtfulness, noun
  • ˈdoubtfully, adverb

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Other Words From

  • doubtful·ly adverb
  • doubtful·ness noun
  • pre·doubtful adjective
  • pre·doubtful·ly adverb
  • quasi-doubtful adjective
  • quasi-doubtful·ly adverb
  • un·doubtful adjective
  • un·doubtful·ly adverb
  • un·doubtful·ness noun

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Word History and Origins

Origin of doubtful1

First recorded in 1350–1400, doubtful is from the Middle English word douteful. See doubt, -ful

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Synonym Study

Doubtful, dubious, incredulous, skeptical imply reluctance or unwillingness to be convinced. To be doubtful about something is to feel that it is open to question or that more evidence is needed to prove it: to be doubtful about the statements of witnesses. Dubious implies vacillation, unsureness, or suspicion: dubious about suggested methods of manufacture. Incredulous means unwilling or reluctant to believe: incredulous at the good news. Skeptical implies a general disposition to doubt or question: skeptical of human progress.

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Example Sentences

It was doubtful we were going to make it to March 1, but with the money that came in we’ve probably got March 1 taken care of.

Whether his time behind bars had a wider effect is doubtful.

McCaffrey has been limited to only three games and is doubtful to play Sunday with a thigh injury.

It’s a delicious promise, but whether American workers — battered, politically polarized and out of work in great numbers — can take on a fight of this nature at this moment is doubtful.

Political pundits used other terms to describe swing states, such as “doubtful” states.

From Time

It is doubtful that any Churchill-like figure—were one available—could thrive.

But from the moment the OSCE team arrived at the site, it began to look doubtful the inquiry had any chance to succeed.

Whether the vote in a rump referendum over the weekend genuinely reflected public opinion in the eastern-most regions is doubtful.

But it is doubtful anyone will ever prove who poisoned Arafat, if poisoned he was.

Stunned, and then immediately doubtful—and, honestly, can you blame us?

The place was well defended by earthworks and natural parapets, and for several hours the issue of the contest was doubtful.

Nothing doubtful or "reputed" ever arrived in the huge packing-cases consigned to Walls End Castle.

It is to be feared that like the sauce of sauces in the hands of the inexperienced cook, the result is more than doubtful.

It is doubtful whether the huge commercial premium that greets success to-day does good or harm.

For a considerable time it appeared very doubtful how the battle would end.





doubtdoubting Thomas