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doubt definition


This page has 7 definitions of doubt in English. Doubt is a verb and noun. Examples of how to use doubt in a sentence are shown. Also define these 0 related words and terms: .



PIE word

The verb is derived from Middle English douten (to be in doubt, feel unsure; to be afraid or worried; to hesitate; to be confused; to have respect or reverence) [and other forms],[1] from Old French douter, doter, duter (compare Middle French doubter), from Latin dubitāre (to hesitate), the present active infinitive of dubitō (to be uncertain, doubt; to hesitate, waver in coming to an opinion; to consider, ponder); the further etymology is uncertain, but one theory is that dubitō may be derived from dubius (fluctuating, wavering; doubtful, dubious, uncertain), from duhibius (held as two), from duo (two) (ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *dwóh₁ (two)) + habeō (to have, hold) (possibly ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *gʰeh₁bʰ- (to grab, take)). Although the Middle English form of the word was spelled without a b, this letter was later introduced through the influence of the Latin words dubitāre and dubitō. However, the English word continued to be pronounced without the b sound.[2]

The noun is derived from Middle English dout, doute (uncertain feeling; questionable point; hesitation; anxiety, fear; reverence, respect; something to be feared, danger;) [and other forms],[3] from Old French doute, dote, dute (uncertain feeling, doubt), from doter, douter, duter (to doubt; to be afraid of, fear) (compare Middle French doubter; modern French douter (to doubt; to suspect)); see further etymology above.[4]

Displaced Old English twēo (doubt) and twēoġan (to doubt).



doubt (third-person singular simple present doubts, present participle doubting, simple past and past participle doubted)

  1. (transitive, intransitive) To be undecided about; to lack confidence in; to disbelieve, to question.
    Synonyms: distrust, mistrust
    He doubted that was really what you meant.
    I had no wish to go, though I doubt if they would have noticed me even if I had.
    • [1552?], Erasmus of Roterdame, “The Seconde Rule. Capitulo x.”, in [William Tyndale], transl., Enchiridion Militis Christiani, which maye be Called in Englishe, the Hansome Weapon of a Christian Knight, [], imprinted at London: [] [B]y [J. Day (?) for] Abraham Ueale, OCLC 1121361275:
      Ther be but two wayes onely. The one whiche by followyng the affections ledeth to perdicion. The other whyche throughe the mortifyenge of the fleſhe: ledeth to lyfe, why doubteſt thou in thy ſelf: There is no thyrde way.
    • 1579, Immeritô [pseudonym; Edmund Spenser], “The Generall Argument of the Whole Booke”, in The Shepheardes Calender: [], London: [] Hugh Singleton, [], OCLC 606515406; republished as The Shepheardes Calender [], London: [] Iohn Wolfe for Iohn Harrison the yonger, [], 1586, OCLC 837880809:
      For they be not termed Eclogues, but Aeglogues, which ſentence this author very well obſerving, vpon good iudgement, though in deede few Goteheards haue to doe herein, neuertheleſſe doubteth not to call them by the vſed and beſt knowne name.
    • 1585 September 9, “How a Man may Ivdge or Discerne of Him Self, vvhether He be a True Christian or Not. []”, in A Christian Directorie Gviding Men to Their Salvation. Devided into Three Bookes. [], [Rouen: s.n.], OCLC 28887498, pages 316–317:
      And as for that faith, vvhich is vvithout vvorkes, and yet ſeemeth to thes men to be ſufficient for their ſaluation; he proteſteth, that it is ſo vnprofitable, as he doubteth not to ſaye of hymſelf; [...]
    • c. 1580 (date written), Philippe Sidnei [i.e., Philip Sidney], “[The Second Booke] Chapter 21”, in Fulke Greville, Matthew Gwinne, and John Florio, editors, The Countesse of Pembrokes Arcadia [The New Arcadia], London: [] [John Windet] for William Ponsonbie, published 1590, OCLC 801077108; republished in Albert Feuillerat, editor, The Countesse of Pembrokes Arcadia (Cambridge English Classics: The Complete Works of Sir Philip Sidney; I), Cambridge, Cambridgeshire: University Press, 1912, OCLC 318419127, page 284:
      For never (I thinke) was there any woman, that with more unremovable determinatiõ gave her selfe to the coũcell of Love, after she had once set before her mind the worthines of your cousin Amphialus; & yet is nether her wisdome doubted of, nor honour blemished.
    • 1594, Richard Hooker, “The Second Booke. Concerning Their First Position who Vrge Reformation in the Church of England: Namely, that Scripture is the Only Rule of All Things which in this Life may be Done by Men.”, in Of the Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie, Eight Bookes, London: Printed by William Stansbye, published 1622, OCLC 1029957510, page 73:
      Now it is not required nor can be exacted at our hands, that we ſhould yeeld vnto any thing other aſſent, then ſuch as doth anſwer the euidence which is to be had of that wee aſſent to. For which cauſe euen in matters diuine, concerning ſome things we may lawfully doubt and ſuſpend our iudgement, inclining neyther to one ſide or other, [...]
    • 1678, John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress from This World, to That which is to Come: [], London: [] Nath[aniel] Ponder [], OCLC 228725984; reprinted in The Pilgrim’s Progress as Originally Published by John Bunyan: Being a Fac-simile Reproduction of the First Edition, London: Elliot Stock [], 1875, OCLC 222146756, page 33:
      He that will enter in muſt firſt without / Stand knocking at the Gate, nor need he doubt / That is a knocker but to enter in; / For God can love him, and forgive his ſin.
    • 1681, John Dryden, The Spanish Fryar: Or, the Double Discovery. [], London: [] Richard Tonson and Jacob Tonson, [], OCLC 6484883, Act III, page 39:
      Have I not manag'd my contrivance well, / To try your Love and make you doubt of mine?
    • 1913 June, J[ohn] A[rthur] R[ansome] Marriott, “The Problem of Poverty”, in The Nineteenth Century and After: A Monthly Review, volume LXXIII, number CCCCXXXVI, New York, N.Y.: Leonard Scott Publication Co.; London: Spottiswoode & Co. Ltd., printers, OCLC 1038091401, section III, page 1262:
      As to the efficacy of such legislation and taxation a word may be said. No one doubts that it is possible, by the employment of such methods, to make the rich poorer. [...] But the really important question—for all serious-minded inquirers—is whether the employment of these weapons will diminish the poverty or increase the prosperity of the relatively poor.
    • 1915, [Gertrude Antoinette Woodcock Seibert], “The Changed Cross”, in Poems of Dawn, New York, N.Y.; London: Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society, OCLC 24200540, page 170:
      And thus no longer trusting to His might, / Who saith we "walk by faith and not by sight," / Doubting, and almost yielding to despair, / The thought arose—My cross I cannot bear.
    • 1921 August, Howard P. Rockey, “The Doubting Thomas”, in Orison Swett Marden, editor, The New Success: Marden’s Magazine: A Magazine of Optimism, Self-help and Encouragement, volume V, number 8, New York, N.Y.: Lowrey-Marden Corporation, OCLC 866840605, part I, page 76, column 2:
      "Your philosophy is very pretty," Tom Douty said slowly, "but I can't help doubting that this is not the right time to start the new business."
    • 1979, John Iliffe, “The Crisis of Colonial Society, 1929–45”, in A Modern History of Tanganyika (African Studies Series; 25), Cambridge, Cambridgeshire: Cambridge University Press, published 1994, →ISBN, page 342:
      [B]oth colonisers and colonised lost faith in the colonisers' vision of the future. Europeans doubted whether their aims were attainable; Africans doubted whether they were desirable.
    • 2011, Kent Koppelman, “Diversity and Discrimination: The Argument over Affirmative Action”, in The Great Diversity Debate: Embracing Pluralism in School and Society, New York, N.Y.: Teachers College Press, →ISBN, page 99:
      In one study, 60% of Black students believed that their academic abilities were doubted by their White peers, and 60% felt that their White professors doubted them as well.
  2. (transitive, archaic) To harbour suspicion about; suspect.
  3. (transitive, archaic) To anticipate with dread or fear; to apprehend.
  4. (transitive, obsolete) To fill with fear; to affright.
  5. (transitive, intransitive, obsolete) To dread, to fear.


Usage notes

  • This is generally a stative verb that rarely takes the continuous inflection. See Category:English stative verbs
  • In archaic usage, the phrase after "doubt" is what the doubter worries may be the case; in modern usage, that phrase is what the doubter worries may not be the case. Thus the archaic "I doubt he may be lying" is equivalent to the modern "I doubt he is telling the truth."
  • In Scotland the archaic usage is still current but with a meaning broadened beyond worry: to doubt something is to consider it likely, so examples include not just "I doubt he's lying," but also "I doubt we'll arrive before dark."

Derived terms

Related terms



doubt (countable and uncountable, plural doubts)

  1. (uncountable, countable) Disbelief or uncertainty (about something); (countable) a particular instance of such disbelief or uncertainty.
    Antonyms: belief, confidence, faith
    There was some doubt as to who the child's real father was.
    I have doubts about how to convert this code to JavaScript.
    • 1678, John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress from This World, to That which is to Come: [], London: [] Nath[aniel] Ponder [], OCLC 228725984; reprinted in The Pilgrim’s Progress as Originally Published by John Bunyan: Being a Fac-simile Reproduction of the First Edition, London: Elliot Stock [], 1875, OCLC 222146756, page 149:
      Thus they went on talking of what they had ſeen by the way; and ſo made that way eaſie, which would otherwiſe, no doubt, have been tedious to them; for now they went through a Wilderneſs.
    • 1843 December 19, Charles Dickens, “Stave Three. The Second of the Three Spirits.”, in A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas, London: Chapman & Hall, [], OCLC 55746801, pages 106–107:
      She was very pretty: exceedingly pretty. With a dimpled, surprised-looking, capital face; a ripe little mouth, that seemed made to be kissed—as no doubt it was; all kinds of good little dots about her chin, that melted into one another when she laughed; and the sunniest pair of eyes you ever saw in any little creature's head.
    • 1906, Stanley J[ohn] Weyman, “The Dissolution”, in Chippinge Borough, New York, N.Y.: McClure, Phillips & Co., OCLC 580270828, page 3:
      He halted opposite the Privy Gardens, and, with his face turned skywards, listened until the sound of the Tower guns smote again on the ear and dispelled his doubts.
    • 1990, Richard Foley, “Skepticism and Rationality”, in Michael D. Roth and Glenn Ross, editors, Doubting: Contemporary Perspectives on Skepticism (Philosophical Studies Series; 48), Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, DOI:10.1007/978-94-009-1942-6, →ISBN, part 1 (Concessions), page 73:
      After all, the search for such assurances will itself require us to marshall our cognitive resources. It will itself involve the use of methods about which we can sensibly have doubts, doubts that cannot be addressed without begging the question.
  2. (countable, obsolete or India) A point of uncertainty; a query.
    Synonym: disbelief
    Antonyms: belief, tenet
    • 2006 July 12, Vishy, “Vishy's Indian English Dictionary: doubt”, in Vishy's Indian English Dictionary[1], archived from the original on 10 May 2013:
      It is entirely normal to hear a statement like "I have just one doubt, miss" or "If you have any doubts before the exam tomorrow, come see me in the staff room". The doubts in the aforementioned sentences are not as much rooted in a lack of faith as in a lack of understanding.

Alternative forms

Derived terms



  1. ^ dǒuten, v.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  2. ^ doubt, v.”, in OED Online , Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1897; “doubt, v.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
  3. ^ dǒut(e, n.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  4. ^ doubt, n.1”, in OED Online , Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1897; “doubt, n.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.

Further reading