adjective, war·i·er, war·i·est.

watchful; being on one's guard against danger.
arising from or characterized by caution: to give someone a wary look.

Origin of wary

First recorded in 1545–55; ware2 + -y1
Related formswar·i·ly, adverbwar·i·ness, nouno·ver·war·y, adjective
Can be confusedwary weary leery

Synonyms for wary

Synonym study

1. See careful.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for wary

Contemporary Examples of wary

Historical Examples of wary

  • Tranter, cunning and wary from years of fighting, knew that his chance had come.

    The White Company

    Arthur Conan Doyle

  • But when they reached Rhegium, the wary Spartan was already beyond their reach.

  • The very lavishness arouses suspicion in the minds of the wary.

    In the Heart of Vosges

    Matilda Betham-Edwards

  • But the wary and vigilant leader of the Hurons was not so easily disconcerted.

    The Last of the Mohicans

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • He sought no return fire, but lay in the dip, wary and patient.

    The Rock of Chickamauga

    Joseph A. Altsheler

British Dictionary definitions for wary


adjective warier or wariest

watchful, cautious, or alert
characterized by caution or watchfulness
Derived Formswarily, adverbwariness, noun

Word Origin for wary

C16: from ware ² + -y 1
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 wary

1550s, from Old English wær "prudent, aware, alert, wary," from Proto-Germanic *waraz (cf. Old Norse varr "attentive," Gothic wars "cautious," Old Saxon giwar, Middle Dutch gheware, Old High German giwar, German gewahr "aware"), from PIE root *wer- "to cover" (see weir). Related: Warily; wariness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper