The Meaning of Dubious: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of dubious? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word dubious, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word dubious mean?

According to Dictionary and Merriam-Webster Unabridged English Dictionary, the word dubious is an adjective pronounced ˈdjuːbiəs that means doubtful or uncertain. Many different things can be described as dubious. On an infomercial, a spokesperson might make dubious claims about a product. In a novel, the protagonist might meet a dubious character, a sleazy salesman might have a dubious reputation, and a con man might have a dubious record or dubious origins. This word often has a negative connotation in the English language and is associated with feeling doubt or a gut feeling about a person or thing. Try using this word of the day or other new words in a sentence today!

Many other languages also contain words that mean dubious. You may notice that some of these words look quite similar to the word dubious. This is likely because they share a common origin. Often, cognates, which are words and phrases that look, sound and mean similar things across languages, are formed when two words have a shared ancestral language such as Latin or Greek. This list of translations for the word dubious is provided by Word Sense

  • Greek: αμφίβολος‎, αμφιλεγόμενος‎, ύποπτος‎
  • Danish: tvivlsom‎, usikker‎
  • German: dubios‎, fragwürdig‎, ominös‎
  • Georgian: საეჭვო‎, არასანდო‎, არასარწმუნო‎, სათუო‎, საკითხავი‎
  • French: douteux‎, dubitatif‎, louche‎
  • Russian: сомни́тельный‎
  • Hungarian: kérdéses‎
  • Norwegian: usikker‎
  • Armenian: կասկածելի‎
  • Finnish: kyseenalainen‎, epäilyttävä‎, arveluttava‎
  • Spanish: dudoso‎, aleatorio‎, ambiguo‎, turbio‎, equívoco‎, torvo‎, avieso‎
  • Swedish: tvivelaktig‎
  • Czech: pochybný‎
  • Turkish: şüpheli‎
  • Romanian: dubios‎, îndoielnic‎
  • Italian: dubbio‎, equivoco‎, ambiguo‎, losco‎, bieco‎, torvo‎
  • Portuguese: dúbio‎, duvidoso‎
  • Bokmål: tvilsom‎
  • Dutch: dubieus‎

What is the origin of the word dubious?

According to Etymonline, the word dubious has been used as an adjective since the 1540s to mean puzzling or causing doubt. It has been used since the 1630s to mean doubtful or hesitating. This word comes from the Late Latin dubiosus meaning doubtful, from the Latin dubium meaning doubt. This is what is considered a neuter of the Latin dubius which means cavillating or fluctuating. This is used figuratively to mean wavering in opinion or doubtful. This comes from the root duo meaning two, from the Proto-Indo-European root dwo meaning two. This is used figuratively in the sense of meaning two minds, or undecided between two things. In Old English, people also used the word tweo to mena doubt. Related words include the adverb dubiously, the noun dubiousness, dubiety, dubitation and indubious. 

What are synonyms and antonyms for the word dubious?

There are many different words that one can use in place of the word dubious. These are called synonyms, which are words and phrases that have the same definition as another word or phrase. Synonyms are useful to know if you are trying to avoid repeating yourself as well as if you would like to expand your vocabulary. This list of synonyms for the word dubious is provided by Thesaurus.

  • unclear
  • indecisive
  • unassured
  • fly-by-night
  • diffident
  • dubitable
  • chancy
  • doubtful
  • suspicious
  • uncertain
  • skeptical
  • problematic
  • perplexed
  • touch and go
  • debatable
  • disputable
  • trustless
  • equivocal
  • shady
  • mootable
  • suspect
  • unreliable
  • unlikely
  • iffy
  • undependable
  • questionable
  • reluctant
  • unconvinced
  • improbable
  • undecided
  • unsure
  • fishy
  • untrustworthy
  • moot
  • open
  • far-fetched
  • untrusty
  • arguable
  • wavering
  • hesitant

There are also numerous different words that have the opposite meaning of the word dubious, which are called antonyms. Antonyms are useful to know when you are trying to expand your vocabulary. This list of antonyms for the word dubious is also provided by Thesaurus

  • honest-to-god
  • reasonable
  • tenable
  • supposable
  • predisposed
  • attainable
  • presumable
  • sound
  • credible
  • very likely
  • reliable
  • likely
  • conceivable
  • achievable
  • promising
  • imaginable
  • trusty
  • valid
  • rational
  • in the cards
  • presumptively
  • persuasive
  • acceptable
  • conjecturable
  • aboveboard
  • to all appearances
  • plausible
  • true
  • given to
  • straight
  • expected
  • possible
  • fiduciary
  • on the verge of
  • tending
  • credential
  • in favor of
  • presumptive
  • odds-on
  • creditable
  • subject to
  • prone
  • seeming
  • prima facie
  • in all probability
  • verisimilar
  • disposed
  • inclined
  • up front
  • tried
  • workable
  • liable
  • like as not
  • seemingly
  • inferable
  • probable
  • assuring
  • feasible
  • thinkable
  • in all likelihood
  • smooth
  • no doubt
  • up-and-coming
  • presumably
  • assumably
  • fair
  • authentic
  • doubtlessly
  • logical
  • impressive
  • most likely
  • convincing
  • doubtless
  • believable
  • anticipated
  • favorite
  • in the habit of
  • practicable
  • colorable
  • destined
  • like enough
  • satisfying
  • ostensible
  • unquestionable

How can the word dubious be used in a sentence?

There are many different circumstances in which someone can use the word dubious meaning doubtful. In this example, Carrie gets bullied a lot in school. Her supposed friends say that they have a surprise for her at the prom. She discusses it with her mother.

Carrie: They said they have a surprise for me at the prom up on stage. Some sort of award or something!

Carrie’s Mom: Carrie, I wouldn’t be too sure. Seems like a bit of a dubious honour if you ask me.

Carrie: You just don’t want me to have friends.

In this next example, someone reached out to Maya on a job posting site. She is excited about the opportunity and discusses it with her friend Janet.

Maya: I guess this guy is starting a production company for this rapper from Atlanta, they want to hire me as a creative executive! I just have to send them a bunch of my ideas and information.

Janet: Maya, I’m not sure about this. You don’t even know this guy. He seems like a bit of a dubious character. I wouldn’t give him your ideas.

Overall, the word dubious is an adjective of Latin origins that means doubtful. Many different things can be dubious, from a dubious battle to a dubious honor, to a dubious distinction.