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[dout-fuh l] /ˈdaʊt fəl/
of uncertain outcome or result.
admitting of or causing doubt; uncertain; ambiguous.
unsettled in opinion or belief; undecided; hesitating.
of equivocal or questionable character:
His tactics are highly doubtful.
Origin of doubtful
1350-1400; Middle English douteful. See doubt, -ful
Related forms
doubtfully, adverb
doubtfulness, noun
predoubtful, adjective
predoubtfully, adverb
quasi-doubtful, adjective
quasi-doubtfully, adverb
undoubtful, adjective
undoubtfully, adverb
undoubtfulness, noun
1. undetermined, unsettled, indecisive, dubious, problematic. 2. unsure, indeterminate. 3. irresolute, vacillating, hesitant. Doubtful, dubious, incredulous, skeptical imply reluctance or unwillingness to be convinced. To be doubtful about something is to feel that it is open to question or that more evidence is needed to prove it: to be doubtful about the statements of witnesses. Dubious implies vacillation, unsureness, or suspicion: dubious about suggested methods of manufacture. Incredulous means unwilling or reluctant to believe: incredulous at the good news. Skeptical implies a general disposition to doubt or question: skeptical of human progress. 4. shady.
1, 2. certain.
Usage note
See doubt. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for doubtfully
Historical Examples
  • "Why, yes—" said Miss Lydia, doubtfully, and dusted her floury hands together.

    An Old Chester Secret Margaret Deland
  • Jethro looked at her doubtfully, and then, as she smiled at him, he smiled also.

    Tiverton Tales Alice Brown
  • "If those are mullet, they don't sound as though they amounted to much," said Captain Westfield, doubtfully.

  • The guard watched us doubtfully, and angrily, but he let us pass.

    Priestess of the Flame Sewell Peaslee Wright
  • And the rest of the people looked at each other doubtfully, troubled at this sudden schism in the weakened tribe.

    In the Morning of Time Charles G. D. Roberts
  • "Edward says they're all rot, too," replied Charlotte, doubtfully.

    The Golden Age Kenneth Grahame
  • "Lablache and I are not on the best of terms," he said doubtfully.

  • "I have no luggage to-night," he answered, and then he saw that the clerk looked at him doubtfully.

    The Christian Hall Caine
  • "I was always against cousins marrying," Mr. Lindsay said, doubtfully.

  • “There would be danger in the attempt,” Jethro said doubtfully.

    The Cat of Bubastes G. A. Henty
British Dictionary definitions for doubtfully


unlikely; improbable
characterized by or causing doubt; uncertain: a doubtful answer
unsettled; unresolved
of questionable reputation or morality
having reservations or misgivings
(of a sportsperson) not likely to be fit enough to play or take part
a person who is undecided or uncertain about an issue
a sportsperson who is not likely to be fit enough to play or take part
Derived Forms
doubtfully, adverb
doubtfulness, noun
Usage note
It was formerly considered correct to use whether after doubtful (it is doubtful whether he will come), but now if and that are also acceptable
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
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Word Origin and History for doubtfully



late 14c., from doubt (n.) + -ful. Related: Doubtfully; doubtfulness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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