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

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

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What does the word wary mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language as well as other dictionaries like Collins English Dictionary and American Heritage, the word wary is an adjectives that describes someone who has caution, cunning, and watchfulness, which is useful in detecting and escaping from danger. The pronunciation of wary is ˈwɛərɪ.

There are many different languages that also contain words that mean wary. You might notice that a lot of these words look and sound similar to one another. This is probably because they share a common language or origin or root. Often, cognates – which are words that look, sound, and mean something similar across languages – are formed when two words share a common ancestor such as Latin or Greek. This list of translations for the word wary is provided by Word Sense.

  •  Slovak: dávať si pozor‎, mať sa na pozore‎
  •  French: méfiant‎
  •  Catalan: cautelós‎
  •  Malay: hati-hati‎, waspada‎
  •  German: achtsam‎, umsichtig‎, vorsichtig‎, wachsam‎
  •  Italian: diffidente‎ (masc.)
  •  Occitan: cautelós‎
  •  Khmer: ប្រុងប្រយត្ន័‎ (prong prɑyat)
  •  Greek: επιφυλακτικός‎
  •  Spanish: cauteloso‎
  •  Armenian: զգույշ‎
  •  Finnish: pelätä‎ (verb: to be wary)
  •  Mirandese: couteloso‎
  •  Maori: matakana‎, owhiti‎, korita‎, paoke‎, korita‎
  •  Russian: насторо́женный‎
  •  Hungarian: gyanakvó‎, bizalmatlankodó‎, óvatos‎
  •  Swedish: försiktig‎, varsam‎
  •  Danish: varsom‎, forsigtig‎, på vagt‎
  •  Turkish: dikkat etmek‎, sakınmak‎
  •  Latvian: piesardzīgs‎ (masc.), piesardzīga‎ (fem.)
  •  Marathi: सावध‎ (Sāvadha)
  •  Japanese: 用心深い‎ (yōjin-bukai)
  •  Irish: airdeallach‎, braiteach‎, faichilleach‎
  •  Galician: cauteloso‎
  •  Asturian: prudente‎
  •  Portuguese: cauteloso‎, cuidadoso‎
  •  Hawaiian: ʻeʻena‎, ʻāhē‎

How can the word wary be used in a sentence?

The word wary can be used in many different sentences in the English language. Below are many examples of wary. Using this word in a sentence today. Using words in your everyday life is the best way to remember their definition. 

The child, Harrison, was taught to be wary of strangers. However, this may backfire when he goes to school next month when he is confronted with many possible dangers and people he does not know. 

The wary employees were suspicious of the new colleagues that joined the branch. They were worried that these people were sent from corporate to cause deception and invade their privacy without permission. The current employees gave them a wary glance upon entering.

New government officials in Washington took a warier stance toward making changes. They did not want to rock the boat too quickly and upset politicians or taxpayers, who may view them as stifling liberty in the United States. 

The quarter-finalist in the junior Wimbledon tournament was wary of the young boy standing by the panic alarm. She worried that he may try to sabotage the competition by pulling the alarm. 

The woman was wary of the man who put his hand on her knee. She treated him with caginess, because she did not know if he was trying to steal her handbag or a kiss. Either way, she did not want it. 

There was an institutional consensus that every employee should be okay going through the x-rays for work everyday. However, Jane had a wary major thought about this and felt they were just making an excuse of security to invade their privacy.

What is the origin of the word wary?

According to Etymonline, the word wary (adj.) has been used since the late 15th century. This comes from the Middle English ware and Old English wær meaning prudent or aware. This comes from the Proto-Germanic waraz which is also the source of the Old Norse varr, Gothic wars, Old Saxon giwar, Middle Dutch gheware, German gewahr, and Old High German giwar. These all come from Proto-Indo-European roots, namely wer meaning to perceive or look out for. Related words include warily (adv.), which uses the suffix ly to create the adverb and wariness (n.), which uses the suffix ness to create the noun.

What are synonyms and antonyms for the word wary?

There are numerous different words that someone can use in place of the word wary. These are called synonyms, which are words and phrases that have the same meaning as another word or phrase. Synonyms are useful to know if you are trying not to repeat yourself, or if you are working on growing your vocabulary. This list of synonyms for the word wary is provided by Thesaurus

  •  provident
  •  walking on eggs
  •  unwasteful
  •  leery
  •  prudent
  •  circumspect
  •  frugal
  •  on guard
  •  keeping on one’s toes
  •  chary
  •  calculating
  •  attentive
  •  wide-awake
  •  guarded
  •  cautious
  •  safe
  •  vigilant
  •  distrustful
  •  sly
  •  handling with kid gloves
  •  thrifty
  •  watchful
  •  discreet
  •  on the qui vive
  •  thinking twice
  •  doubting
  •  canny
  •  on the lookout
  •  watching out
  •  considerate
  •  heedful
  •  watching one’s step
  •  chariness
  •  careful
  •  cagey
  •  alert
  •  sparing
  •  saving
  •  suspicious
  •  gingerly 

There are also many different words that mean the opposite of the word wary. These opposite words are called antonyms, and are also useful to know if you are trying to expand your vocabulary or knowledge of the English language. This list of antonyms for the word wary is also provided by Thesaurus

  •  inaccurate
  •  lackadaisical
  •  hasty
  •  inadvertent
  •  remiss
  •  imprudent
  •  inconsiderate
  •  unguarded
  •  mindless
  •  cursory
  •  abstracted
  •  casual
  •  sloppy
  •  reckless
  •  unthinking
  •  loose
  •  disregardful
  •  absent-minded
  •  forgetful
  •  irresponsible
  •  wasteful
  •  indiscreet
  •  perfunctory
  •  unobservant
  •  oblivious
  •  injudicious
  •  indolent
  •  negligent
  •  nonchalant
  •  regardless
  •  offhand
  •  napping
  •  uncircumspect
  •  unheeding
  •  careless
  •  unmindful
  •  unreflective
  •  improvident
  •  indifferent
  •  heedless
  •  slipshod
  •  lax
  •  thoughtless
  •  pococurante
  •  unconcerned
  •  incautious

Overall, the word wary means (pronounced ˈwɛəri) having a keen caution or watchful prudence. This term is often used in American English and is of Proto-Indo-European origin.


  1. wary: meaning, origin, translation | Word Sense 
  2. WARY Synonyms: 48 Synonyms & Antonyms for WARY | Thesaurus 
  3. CARELESS Synonyms: 80 Synonyms & Antonyms for CARELESS | Thesaurus 
  4. wary | Origin and meaning of wary | Online Etymology Dictionary 
  5. Wary | Definition of Wary | Merriam-Webster