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[ten-tuh-tiv] /ˈtɛn tə tɪv/
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 forms
tentatively, adverb
tentativeness, noun
nontentative, adjective
nontentatively, adverb
nontentativeness, noun
pretentative, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for tentative
  • My conducting is tentative and the musicians' response is halting and lumbered.
  • At the moment, however, leaders of the project expressed how tentative the five universities are in endorsing the approach.
  • With white satin pageant sashes, they stood at the edge of the dining room, more tentative than triumphant.
  • Each has had to come up with her own tentative, often unsatisfactory explanation and way of coping.
  • My tentative take is that there's an inchoate quality to their fears that's new.
  • Researchers have provided some tentative answers that fly in the face of commonly held beliefs.
  • There are some tentative moves towards doing this for science but there is a long way to go.
  • In fact, tentative observations predicts that it is not.
  • But it's a tentative entry, at best, into the ranks of the unmanned systems revolution.
  • Today the detective thinks his target is ready to firm up a tentative commitment to meet at a local bowling alley.
British Dictionary definitions for tentative


provisional or experimental; conjectural
hesitant, uncertain, or cautious
Derived Forms
tentatively, adverb
tentativeness, noun
Word Origin
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
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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
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