[ ur-nist ]
/ ˈɜr nɪst /


serious in intention, purpose, or effort; sincerely zealous: an earnest worker.
showing depth and sincerity of feeling: earnest words; an earnest entreaty.
seriously important; demanding or receiving serious attention.


full seriousness, as of intention or purpose: to speak in earnest.

Origin of earnest

before 1000; Middle English erneste, Old English eornoste (adj.); Middle English ernest, Old English eornost (noun); cognate with Dutch, German ernest


1 fervent, intent, purposeful, determined, industrious, ambitious. Earnest, resolute, serious, sincere imply having qualities of depth and firmness. Earnest implies having a purpose and being steadily and soberly eager in pursuing it: an earnest student. Resolute adds a quality of determination: resolute in defending the right. Serious implies having depth and a soberness of attitude that contrasts with gaiety and frivolity; it may include the qualities of both earnestness and resolution: serious and thoughtful. Sincere suggests genuineness, trustworthiness, and absence of superficiality: a sincere interest in music.


ear·nest·ly, adverbear·nest·ness, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

Example sentences from the Web for earnestness

British Dictionary definitions for earnestness (1 of 2)

/ (ˈɜːnɪst) /


serious in mind or intentionan earnest student
showing or characterized by sincerity of intentionan earnest promise
demanding or receiving serious attention


in earnest with serious or sincere intentions

Derived forms of earnest

earnestly, adverbearnestness, noun

Word Origin for earnest

Old English eornost; related to Old High German ernust seriousness, Old Norse ern energetic, efficient, Gothic arniba secure

British Dictionary definitions for earnestness (2 of 2)

/ (ˈɜːnɪst) /


a part or portion of something given in advance as a guarantee of the remainder
Also called: earnest money contract law something given, usually a nominal sum of money, to confirm a contract
any token of something to follow; pledge; assurance

Word Origin for earnest

C13: from Old French erres pledges, plural of erre earnest money, from Latin arrha, shortened from arrabō pledge, from Greek arrabon, from Hebrew `ērābhōn pledge, from `ārabh he pledged
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

Idioms and Phrases with earnestness


see in earnest.

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