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

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

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What does the word tentative mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language as well as other dictionaries like American Heritage and Collins English Dictionary, the word tentative is an adjective that means either not fully developed or worked out, or hesitant or uncertain. The pronunciation of tentative is ten-ta-tive. There are many tentative things in life, from tentative time periods, to a tentative contribution, to tentative meanings, to a tentative exploration strategy paper. 

There are also many different languages that use words that mean tentative. You may notice that many of these words look and sound similar to one another. These cognates are often formed when words have a similar origin in languages like Latin or Greek. This list of translations for the word tentative is provided by Word Sense.

  •  Russian: эксперимента́льный‎, про́бный‎, о́пытный‎
  •  Portuguese: experimental‎
  •  Estonian: katseline‎, esialgne‎
  •  German: vorläufig‎, Versuch‎, experimentell‎
  •  Armenian: փորձնական‎, փորձարարական‎
  •  Turkish: deneme‎, deneme kabilinden‎, deneme niteliğinde‎, tecrübe‎
  •  Czech: pokusný‎, zkušební‎
  •  Korean: 잠정적‎
  •  Slovene: poskusen‎, provizoričen‎
  •  Finnish: alustava‎, kokeellinen‎
  •  Swedish: preliminär‎, försöks-‎
  •  Norwegian: forsøksvis‎, tentativ‎
  •  Spanish: tentativo‎, provisional‎, experimental‎, tanteo‎

You can also find translations from other sources. Many different websites can provide English Italian translation, Spanish English translation, German English translation, Portuguese English translation, English Italian dictionary, English Spanish dictionary, Russian English translation, French verb conjugation, Arabic English translation, Hebrew English translation, English Hebrew dictionary, Italian English Translation, an English Arabic dictionary, and English German dictionary, Dutch English translation, English Dutch Dictionary, German verb conjugation, and English Portuguese dictionary, English French translation, English dictionary, and English Russian Dictionary, Spanish verb conjugation, English Spanish translation, English German translation, English Hebrew translation, English Portuguese translation, English Arabic translation, or a variety of other English dictionaries along with an English spell checker. 

See if you can determine what the translations of the below words are! 

​翻译, konjugation, übersetzung im kontext, dicionario, kontekście, t​radução em context​​o, ​переводчик контекст, ​תרגום בהקשר, السياق, diccionario, tłumaczenie, dizionario, překlad, wörterbuch, conjugación

What is the origin of the word tentative?

According to Etymonline, the word tentative has been used in Middle English since the 1580s (c16). This comes from the Middle English tentativus, meaning trying or testing, from the Medieval Latin tentātīvus. This comes from the Latin tentatus, which is the past participle t​​​entāre, a variant of temptāre, from the Latin tentāre/tentare, a Latin verb meaning to feel or try. One can add the suffixes ly and ness to make the related words tentatively (adv.) and tentativeness (n.)

How can the word tentative be used in a sentence?

The word tentative can be used in many different sentences in the English language. Using words in a sentence is a great way to confirm your understanding of their definition. Below are many examples of tentative. 

She had tentative plans to attend Cambridge University in November, but she was worried about the longer-term date of graduation and how her visa would affect this. She pondered if she should attend Princeton University instead. 

The young boys and the CEOs were excited by the tentative reopening date of the stadium. The ​union’s board was just awaiting final approval of the plan to announce the impending return of baseball and celebrations. A plan of this volume required many different approvals. 

The candidates for the provisional government seats tentatively celebrated their victories, but did not announce them too soon. They did not want to come off as winners if they were actually losers. 

The newsletter announced the tentative schedule for the probationary employees to return to work. There were no solid dates, and only a tentative contract agreement, which frustrated the workers. They needed more than just tentative answers and willy-nilly memos.

She did not let her tentative impressions of the NASA International Workshop go to her head. She still had to come to her own conclusions and win the contest before being selected for an internship there. 

The baby took his first tentative steps in front of many fans in his family. He gave a tentative cry from his throat when he fell over. 

Natalie took tentative field notes on the tiger cubs. This was the kind of empire you did not want to mess with. 

I kept track of my journey to Scotland in a tentative fashion. I didn’t really want others to know I was traveling from out of town. 

What are synonyms and antonyms for the word tentative?

There are many different words that a person can use in place of the word tentative. 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 want to avoid repeating yourself as well as if you are trying to expand your vocabulary. The below list of synonyms for the word tentative is provided by Thesaurus

  •  unsettled
  •  indefinite
  •  provisory
  •  backward
  •  not settled
  •  dawdling
  •  lacking confidence
  •  unsure
  •  speculative
  •  not final
  •  diffident
  •  cautious
  •  uncertain
  •  timid
  •  faltering
  •  shy
  •  subject to change
  •  uneager
  •  halting
  •  unwilling
  •  trial
  •  wobbly
  •  half-hearted
  •  makeshift
  •  acting
  •  disinclined
  •  conditional
  •  dependent
  •  provisional
  •  skeptical
  •  afraid
  •  wavering
  •  unconfirmed
  •  temporary
  •  conjectural
  •  doubtful
  •  experimental
  •  indecisive
  •  on trial
  •  doubting
  •  irresolute
  •  hesitant
  •  undecided
  •  vacillatory
  •  probationary
  •  contingent
  •  vacillating
  •  hesitating
  •  delaying
  •  loath
  •  slow
  •  provisionary
  •  reluctant
  •  unpredictable
  •  averse
  •  lazy
  •  test
  •  ad interim
  •  hanging back
  •  open for consideration
  •  iffy

There are also numerous different words that mean the opposite of the word tentative. These opposite words are called antonyms, which are another great, easy way to expand your English language vocabulary. This list of antonyms for the word tentative is provided by Thesaurus as well.

  •  irrefutable
  •  self-confident
  •  genuine
  •  undisturbed
  •  cocksure
  •  unconcerned
  •  clear
  •  guaranteed
  •  untroubled
  •  known
  •  positive
  •  undoubted
  •  trustworthy
  •  sure
  •  supreme
  •  unequivocal
  •  sound
  •  determined
  •  on ice
  •  calm
  •  reliable
  •  absolute
  •  demonstrable
  •  set
  •  sanguine
  •  stated
  •  real
  •  bound
  •  ensured
  •  unmistakable
  •  provable
  •  certified
  •  definite
  •  secure
  •  authoritative
  •  warranted
  •  destined
  •  firm
  •  predestined
  •  undoubting
  •  satisfied
  •  undoubtful
  •  having down pat
  •  unperturbed
  •  stipulated
  •  plain
  •  safe
  •  insured
  •  incontrovertible
  •  certain
  •  assertive
  •  undeniable
  •  fixed
  •  ascertained
  •  establishable
  •  unambiguous
  •  believing
  •  assured
  •  infallible
  •  convinced
  •  settled
  •  established
  •  confirmable
  •  in the bag
  •  true
  •  salted away
  •  unerring
  •  evident
  •  decided
  •  verifiable
  •  sure thing
  •  indubitable
  •  conclusive
  •  concluded
  •  questionless

Overall, the word tentative means hesitant or unsure. This word comes from the past participle of tentāre, ​Medieval Latin tentativus, Latin tentātus, past participle tentatus, and French tentatif.


  1. tentative: meaning, origin, translation | Word Sense 
  2. tentative | Origin and meaning of tentative | Online Etymology Dictionary
  3. TENTATIVE Synonyms: 52 Synonyms & Antonyms for TENTATIVE | Thesaurus 
  4. CERTAIN Synonyms: 177 Synonyms & Antonyms for CERTAIN | Thesaurus 
  5. Tentative | Definition of Tentative | Merriam-Webster