1 [ur-nist]
serious in intention, purpose, or effort; sincerely zealous: an earnest worker.
showing depth and sincerity of feeling: earnest words; an earnest entreaty.
seriously important; demanding or receiving serious attention.
full seriousness, as of intention or purpose: to speak in earnest.

before 1000; Middle English erneste, Old English eornoste (adj.); Middle English ernest, Old English eornost (noun); cognate with Dutch, German ernest

earnestly, adverb
earnestness, noun

1. fervent, intent, purposeful, determined, industrious, ambitious. Earnest, resolute, serious, sincere imply having qualities of depth and firmness. Earnest implies having a purpose and being steadily and soberly eager in pursuing it: an earnest student. Resolute adds a quality of determination: resolute in defending the right. Serious implies having depth and a soberness of attitude that contrasts with gaiety and frivolity; it may include the qualities of both earnestness and resolution: serious and thoughtful. Sincere suggests genuineness, trustworthiness, and absence of superficiality: a sincere interest in music.

1. frivolous.
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2 [ur-nist]
a portion of something, given or done in advance as a pledge of the remainder.
anything that gives pledge, promise, or indication of what is to follow.

1175–1225; Middle English ernes(t), alteration of Old French erres, plural of erre earnest money < Latin arr(h)a short for arr(h)abō (perhaps by taking -bō as a future tense ending) < Greek arrhabṓn < Semitic (compare Hebrew ʿērābhōn security, pledge). Cf. arras2

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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
earnest1 (ˈɜːnɪst)
1.  serious in mind or intention: an earnest student
2.  showing or characterized by sincerity of intention: an earnest promise
3.  demanding or receiving serious attention
4.  seriousness
5.  in earnest with serious or sincere intentions
[Old English eornost; related to Old High German ernust seriousness, Old Norse ern energetic, efficient, Gothic arniba secure]

earnest2 (ˈɜːnɪst)
1.  a part or portion of something given in advance as a guarantee of the remainder
2.  contract law Also called: earnest money something given, usually a nominal sum of money, to confirm a contract
3.  any token of something to follow; pledge; assurance
[C13: from Old French erres pledges, plural of erre earnest money, from Latin arrha, shortened from arrabō pledge, from Greek arrabon, from Hebrew `ērābhōn pledge, from `ārabh he pledged]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

O.E. eornoste (adj.) from a noun eornost "passion, zeal" (surviving only in the phrase in earnest), from P.Gmc. *ern "vigor, briskness" (cf. O.H.G. arnust "struggle," Goth. arniba "safely," O.N. jarna "fight, combat") The proper name Ernest (lit. "resolute") is from the same root. Related: Earnestly;
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Bible Dictionary

Earnest definition

The Spirit is the earnest of the believer's destined inheritance (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Eph. 1:14). The word thus rendered is the same as that rendered "pledge" in Gen. 38:17-20; "indeed, the Hebrew word has simply passed into the Greek and Latin languages, probably through commercial dealings with the Phoenicians, the great trading people of ancient days. Originally it meant no more than a pledge; but in common usage it came to denote that particular kind of pledge which is a part of the full price of an article paid in advance; and as it is joined with the figure of a seal when applied to the Spirit, it seems to be used by Paul in this specific sense." The Spirit's gracious presence and working in believers is a foretaste to them of the blessedness of heaven. God is graciously pleased to give not only pledges but foretastes of future blessedness.

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases


see in earnest.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences
This year, developers have started to use the system in earnest as the main revenue stream for many games.
The reform wars begin in earnest.
Economic reform begins in earnest.
The race is on in earnest, but his party's chances look grim.
Idioms & Phrases
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