[ pri-kaw-shuh-ner-ee ]
/ prɪˈkɔ ʃəˌnɛr i /
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of, relating to, or characterized by precaution: precautionary measures.
expressing or advising precaution: precautionary warnings against possible tornadoes.
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Sometimes pre·cau·tion·al [pri-kaw-shuh-nl] /prɪˈkɔ ʃə nl/ .

Origin of precautionary

First recorded in 1740–50; precaution + -ary
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does precautionary mean?

Precautionary is used to describe actions taken in advance to prevent something negative from happening or to lessen the impact of the negative thing if it does happen.

Such actions are called precautions. This sense of precautionary is most commonly seen in the phrase precautionary measures, which is essentially a synonym for precautions.

Precaution can also be used as a verb meaning to warn, and precautionary can also mean expressing a warning, as in Police have posted a precautionary message advising all residents to stay indoors due to the chemical spill. 

Example: Officials said they have taken several precautionary measures to secure the city in advance of the storm.

Where does precautionary come from?

Precautionary is one of the adjective forms of the noun precaution (another is precautious, meaning “being careful by actively preparing to avoid something negative”). The first records of the word precaution come from around 1600. Precaution combines the prefix pre, meaning “before,” with the noun caution (alertness or care in what could be a bad situation).

Precautionary is used to describe action taken before something actually happens. A person using caution is being careful, especially in general or during a dangerous situation. A person taking precautionary measures has anticipated something negative and is doing something to prepare so that it doesn’t happen or that it won’t be quite as bad if it does. A person boarding up windows before a hurricane hits is taking precautionary measures (or precautions).

What’s the difference between precautionary and cautionary? Cautionary always refers to things that express a warning, especially one that is general, as in cautionary tale or cautionary advice. Precautionary, on the other hand, usually relates to preparation for something specific.

Precautionary appears in the name of the precautionary principle, which states that an action should not be taken if the consequences are uncertain and potentially dangerous.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to precautionary

What are some words that share a root or word element with precautionary

What are some words that often get used in discussing precautionary?

What are some words precautionary may be commonly confused with?

How is precautionary used in real life?

Precautionary is most often used in the context of serious situations that involve real danger.



Try using precautionary!

Which of the following examples is MOST likely to be considered precautionary?

A. Stepping carefully across a rickety bridge.
B. Putting on a life jacket before going on a boat.
C. Charging wildly into battle without a plan.

How to use precautionary in a sentence