doubtful


doubtful
doubtful, dubious, problematic, questionable are comparable when they mean not affording assurance of the worth, soundness, success, or certainty of something or someone. Doubtful and dubious are sometimes used with little distinction.
Doubtful, however, is commonly so positive in its implication as almost to impute worthlessness, unsoundness, failure, or uncertainty to the thing in question
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it is doubtful whether the captain had ever had so much fun— Steinbeck

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Dubious stresses suspicion, mistrust, or hesitation (as in accepting, believing, following, or choosing); thus, a man of doubtful repute is by implication more distrusted than one of dubious repute; one who is doubtful of the outcome of a project has by implication better grounds for fearing its failure than one dubious about it, for the latter may imply mere vague suspicions and fears and little evidence
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a doubtful prospect

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a dubious transaction

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a doubtful title to an estate

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dubious friends

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whispers and glances were interchanged, accompanied by shrugs and dubious shakes of the head— Irving

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she takes me in, telling me there's nobody there. I'm doubtful, but she swears she's alone— Hammett

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Problematic is the only one of the terms here considered that is free from a suggestion of a moral judgment or suspicion; it is especially applicable to things whose existence, meaning, fulfillment, or realization is very uncertain, sometimes so uncertain that the probabilities of truth and of falsehood or of success and of failure are nearly equal
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the very existence of any such individual [Homer] ... is more than problematicColeridge

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excellent acoustics, always so problematic a quality in halls built for the hearing of music— Wharton

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publishing is now in a very problematic state— Farre 11

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Questionable may imply little more than the existence of doubt respecting the thing so quali-fied
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the legality of this action is questionable

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a questionable theory

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It more commonly suggests doubt about propriety and may imply well-grounded suspicions (as of immorality, crudity, or dishonesty) that for one reason or another need to be expressed in guarded terms; thus, to say that a man is a questionable character is to cast a reflection on his honesty or morality; questionable dealings suggest underhandedness and dishonesty
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women of questionable virtue

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the propriety of Lydia's manners was at least questionableShaw

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the illustration is questionable, but the notion implied may be sound— Alexander

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Analogous words: distrusting or distrustful, mistrusting or mistrustful (see corresponding verbs at DISTRUST): *fearful, apprehensive, afraid
Antonyms: cocksure, positive

New Dictionary of Synonyms. 2014.

Synonyms:

Look at other dictionaries:

  • doubtful — doubtful, dubious 1. The constructions that follow doubtful correspond to the pattern outlined for doubt above, with whether and if still dominant but a that clause now increasingly common: • It is doubtful that in the right to life controversy… …   Modern English usage

  • Doubtful — Doubt ful, a. 1. Not settled in opinion; undetermined; wavering; hesitating in belief; also used, metaphorically, of the body when its action is affected by such a state of mind; as, we are doubtful of a fact, or of the propriety of a measure.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • doubtful — I adjective arguable, at issue, conditional, conjectural, contestable, controvertible, debatable, disbelieving, disposed to question, disputable, distrustful, doubtable, doubting, dubious, dubitable, dubius, equivocal, implausible, improbable, in …   Law dictionary

  • doubtful — UK US /ˈdaʊtfəl/ adjective ACCOUNTING ► used to describe debts or accounts that are unlikely to be paid: »The Company has established an allowance for doubtful accounts based on the credit risk of specific customers and historical trends. → See… …   Financial and business terms

  • doubtful — [dout′fəl] adj. [ME douteful] 1. in doubt; not clear or definite; ambiguous 2. not clearly predictable; uncertain; unsure 3. giving rise to doubt or suspicion; questionable, as in reputation 4. feeling doubt; unsettled in opinion or belief… …   English World dictionary

  • doubtful — [adj1] questionable, unclear ambiguous, borderline, chancy, clouded, contingent, debatable, dicey, disreputable, doubtable, dubious, dubitable, equivocal, far fetched, fat chance, fishy*, hazardous, hazy, iffy*, impugnable, inconclusive,… …   New thesaurus

  • doubtful — late 14c., from DOUBT (Cf. doubt) + FUL (Cf. ful). Related: Doubtfully; doubtfulness …   Etymology dictionary

  • doubtful — ► ADJECTIVE 1) uncertain. 2) not known with certainty. 3) improbable. DERIVATIVES doubtfully adverb doubtfulness noun …   English terms dictionary

  • doubtful — [[t]da͟ʊtfʊl[/t]] 1) ADJ GRADED: usu v link ADJ, oft it v link ADJ that/wh If it is doubtful that something will happen, it seems unlikely to happen or you are uncertain whether it will happen. For a time it seemed doubtful that he would move at… …   English dictionary

  • doubtful — doubt|ful [ˈdautfəl] adj 1.) probably not true or not likely to happen ▪ Prospects for a lasting peace remain doubtful. it is doubtful if/whether ▪ It was doubtful whether the patient would survive the operation. it is doubtful that ▪ It is… …   Dictionary of contemporary English


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