of the nature of or made or done as a trial, experiment, or attempt; experimental: a tentative report on her findings.
unsure; uncertain; not definite or positive; hesitant: a tentative smile on his face.

Origin of tentative

1580–90; < Medieval Latin tentātīvus, equivalent to Latin tentāt(us) (past participle of tentāre, variant of temptāre to test; see tempt) + -īvus -ive
Related formsten·ta·tive·ly, adverbten·ta·tive·ness, nounnon·ten·ta·tive, adjectivenon·ten·ta·tive·ly, adverbnon·ten·ta·tive·ness, nounpre·ten·ta·tive, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for tentative

Contemporary Examples of tentative

Historical Examples of tentative

  • "Porter tells me Lucretia is good business," said Danby, in a tentative tone.


    W. A. Fraser

  • At length the most daring of the "patriots" emitted a tentative hiss.

  • Then he took a tentative step and lifted his hand from its support.

    Louisiana Lou

    William West Winter

  • As his words are few and his manner reticent and tentative, so must the style of his interpreter be.

  • Then he broke in upon the tentative conversation which follows an introduction.

    The Dominant Strain

    Anna Chapin Ray

British Dictionary definitions for tentative



provisional or experimental; conjectural
hesitant, uncertain, or cautious
Derived Formstentatively, adverbtentativeness, noun

Word Origin for tentative

C16: from Medieval Latin tentātīvus, from Latin tentāre to test
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 tentative

1580s, from Medieval Latin tentativus "trying, testing," from Latin tentatus, past participle of tentare "to feel, try," (variant of temptare "to feel, try, test"). Related: Tentatively.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper