1. alertness and prudence in a hazardous situation; care; wariness: Landslides ahead—proceed with caution.
  2. a warning against danger or evil; anything serving as a warning: By way of caution, he told me the difficulties I would face.
  3. Informal. a person or thing that astonishes or causes mild apprehension: She’s a caution. The way he challenges your remarks is a caution.

verb (used with object)

  1. to give warning to; advise or urge to take heed.

verb (used without object)

  1. to warn or advise: The newspapers caution against overoptimism.


  1. care, forethought, or prudence, esp in the face of danger; wariness
  2. something intended or serving as a warning; admonition
  3. law, mainly British a formal warning given to a person suspected or accused of an offence that his words will be taken down and may be used in evidence
  4. a notice entered on the register of title to land that prevents a proprietor from disposing of his or her land without a notice to the person who entered the caution
  5. informal an amusing or surprising person or thingshe’s a real caution


  1. (tr) to urge or warn (a person) to be careful
  2. (tr) law, mainly British to give a caution to (a person)
  3. (intr) to warn, urge, or advisehe cautioned against optimism

“to warn,” 1640s, from caution (n.). Related: Cautioned; cautioning.


c.1300, “bail, guarantee, pledge,” from Old French caution “security, surety” (13c.), from Latin cautionem (nominative cautio) “caution, care, foresight, precaution,” noun of action from past participle stem of cavere “to be on one’s guard” (see caveat). The Latin sense re-emerged in English 16c.-17c. Meaning “word of warning” is from c.1600.

see throw caution to the winds.

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