[ pri-kaw-shuhs ]
/ prɪˈkɔ ʃəs /
Save This Word!

using or displaying precaution: a precautious reply; a precautious person.
Smoothly step over to these common grammar mistakes that trip many people up. Good luck!
Question 1 of 7
Fill in the blank: I can’t figure out _____ gave me this gift.

Origin of precautious

First recorded in 1705–15; precauti(on) + -ous
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does precautious mean?

Precautious is an adjective that means being careful by actively preparing to avoid something negative. It can refer to a person or an action.

Precautious is very similar to cautious. They both mean being prudent to avoid something bad, but precautious has the added sense of doing something beforehand to try to prevent the bad thing from happening.

Example: I decided to be precautious and have my mechanic check out my car before the big road trip.

Where does precautious come from?

Precautious was first recorded in the mid-1600s as a combination of the noun precaution and the adjectival suffix -ous, meaning “full of.” Precaution combines the prefix pre-, meaning “before,” with the noun caution (alertness or care in what could be a bad situation).

So how is precautious different from cautious? The key difference is the pre-. Precautious implies action taken before something actually happens. A person being cautious is being careful, especially in general or during a dangerous situation. A person being precautious has anticipated something negative and is doing something to prepare so that it doesn’t happen.

A word very similar to precautious is precautionary, which describes things that express or are characterized by precaution (a precautionary measure or a precautionary warning).

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms of precautious?

What are some synonyms for precautious?

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

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

What are some words precautious may be commonly confused with?

How is precautious used in real life?

When we think people are being too careful by taking unnecessary steps to prepare for something, we often say they are being overly precautious.



Quiz yourself!

Which of the following examples best describes an action that is precautious?

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 precautious in a sentence