Definition of caution in English:



  • 1[mass noun] Care taken to avoid danger or mistakes.

    ‘anyone receiving a suspect package should exercise extreme caution’
    • ‘Those urging caution note the failure of the euro to go above $1.30, despite ongoing market clatter about dollar weakness.’
    • ‘Local estrogen therapy should be used with caution in patients with impaired liver function.’
    • ‘Drivers should exercise great caution on both public roads and bush tracks.’
    • ‘As a defence of this immunity from action, it has been suggested that the prospect of litigation in such circumstances would cause delay and lead to excessive caution by ministers and officials.’
    • ‘Extreme caution is urged with men who exhibit severe violence or sociopathic traits.’
    • ‘Rather, love, and its consequences, is seen as a valuable goal, but one to be pursued with caution and handled with care.’
    • ‘Now that there is a danger of frost it is advisable to drive with caution and avoid rushing.’
    • ‘Last month the fertility expert Lord Winston urged caution, warning that many obstacles in their use remained.’
    • ‘Extreme caution and care is required and journeys should not be undertaken unless necessary.’
    • ‘Download with caution and avoid files you can't be sure are safe.’
    • ‘The caution displayed for many years by the French Conseil d' Etat concerning the supremacy of Community law is mirrored in the case law of other States.’
    • ‘She remembered Joe's warnings and walked with caution.’
    • ‘But the Irish Water Safety Association, has urged the public to exercise due caution if contemplating a swim in the cold waters in the coming days.’
    • ‘A coroner has urged climbers to exercise extreme caution when tackling limestone cliffs in the Dales.’
    • ‘I would ask that those involved in water based activity to exercise the utmost caution and to always play safe.’
    • ‘The real problem is that they mistake his caution for weakness.’
    • ‘The Australian government warns travelers to exercise extreme caution.’
    • ‘It is the duty of an auditor to bring to bear on the work he has to perform that skill, care and caution which a reasonably competent, careful and cautious auditor would use.’
    • ‘We understand that most motorists are very understanding and pass with due caution and care, and I would hope that most riders would thank them for this.’
    • ‘To this effect, he wanted to urge road users locally to exercise care, caution and common sense when getting behind the wheel of a car.’
    care, carefulness, wariness, awareness, heedfulness, heed, attention, attentiveness, alertness, watchfulness, vigilance, circumspection, discretion, prudence, guardedness, chariness, forethought, mindfulness
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1British [count noun]An official or legal warning given to someone who has committed a minor offence but has not been charged, to the effect that further action will be taken if they commit another such offence.
      ‘they let him off with a caution’
      • ‘As a consequence, two hunt followers received formal police cautions.’
      • ‘He admitted bigamy and received a caution for the offence.’
      • ‘When the cops arrest her, they confiscate the goods, keeping the best for themselves, and let her off with a caution.’
      • ‘The same form also asked the Applicant to state full convictions, former police cautions or bindovers set by any court.’
      • ‘The application form which the applicant completed and signed contained declarations to the effect that the applicant had neither convictions nor cautions for sexual assault and that there were no cases pending of a similar character.’
      • ‘During this time anyone who enquires about your registration will be told that you have a caution on your record.’
      • ‘The Defendant further alleges that there were many warnings and cautions to Mr. Remillard to improve but no documentation was submitted to substantiate that.’
      • ‘In court, Michael Blacklidge, defending, said Mr Williamson had no previous convictions or cautions for drug related offences.’
      • ‘The legislation also extends the access of employers working with children and vulnerable adults to full police records on job applicants including spent convictions, cautions and warnings.’
      • ‘A further five claimants received official cautions having admitted their fraud to investigators.’
      • ‘The appellant was of good character; he had no previous convictions and had received no cautions.’
      • ‘You are required to divulge any police cautions, or convictions in a Court of Law, no matter where or when they occurred (including spent convictions).’
      • ‘By way of illustration, I would refer to section 10 of Code C which contains elaborate provision for the giving of cautions.’
      • ‘Officers made 43 arrests, from which 23 people have been charged or received official cautions.’
      • ‘Various measures have been recommended by the meeting of the parties to deal with these problems of non-compliance, including the provision of technical assistance, GEF funding, and the issuing of cautions.’
      • ‘These things may be evidenced by a conviction or caution for a criminal offence, or by the determination of another regulatory body of unfitness to practise.’
      • ‘He received a caution for that disciplinary offence and, in the course of things, that would not be recorded on his personal record.’
      • ‘It should cut all needless use of remand, and extend warnings, cautions and conditional discharges to minor offenders.’
      • ‘Skateboarders face £1,000 fines after ignoring warning letters and official cautions ordering them to stop.’
      • ‘On the other hand, too much attention had been given to the statement in the pre-sentence report as to what his response would be in the future and to the previous caution for the indecent assault.’
      warning, admonition, admonishment, injunction, monition
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2Warning.
      ‘business advisers have sounded a note of caution’
      • ‘By Thursday, conditions were eased considerably, with no repeat of the disastrous conditions, despite the Met Service continuing to sound a note of caution.’
      • ‘But this caution, Mr. Rummel notes, is not merely about protecting life. It is about protecting science.’
      • ‘The committee issued a formal caution against Mr Clayton's entry on the register.’
      • ‘It became clear that it wasn't a clear-cut hydraulics failure, as the gauge was reading erratically without the associated warning or caution.’
      • ‘‘Never lock your pets in a closed room, particularly a garage’ - the caution comes from V.R. Bhaskar.’
      • ‘The committee issued a formal caution against Connolly's entry on the professional register.’
      • ‘I looked at the fuel total again; the caution made no sense to me with this much fuel.’
      • ‘The report waives a flag of caution, warning that resources needed for educational endeavors have been reduced all across the spectrum.’
      • ‘One man ignored the caution and dropped onto his stomach without so much as waving a flashlight.’
      • ‘However, members of the Public and Commercial Services union and Prospect union have met the announcement with a note of caution.’
      • ‘She had dismissed the caution as ‘superfluous and ideological’ but in the midst of the shooting recalled the words.’
      • ‘Remember the caution of Bill Bryson to the weary consumer - never buy anything you can't make your children carry.’
      • ‘A general note of caution: nothing can be cured by miracles.’
      • ‘I fully agree with the caution expressed about the use of ‘smart cards.’’
      • ‘They dismiss questioning of the economy at this juncture with the caution, ‘We should not talk ourselves into a recession’.’
      • ‘They had been confident enough in their understanding of the situation to ignore the caution in the manual.’
      • ‘However he sounded a note of caution, warning that the glut of orders could provoke a disturbing crisis in manufacturing capacity locally.’
      • ‘Macleod's intervention was supported by constitutional experts yesterday as a vital step to modernise the Royal Family while Scottish Conservatives sounded a note of caution.’
      • ‘Perhaps, then, Vergil's great epic does not aim only to magnify the greatness of Augustus' Rome but also to sound a note of caution or, even, warning.’
      • ‘It is appropriate here to repeat the caution often taught in medical school: When hearing hoof beats, don't look for zebras!’
  • 2informal, dated An amusing or surprising person.

    ‘‘You're a caution, you are,’ she said’
    joker, comedian, comic, humorist, wag, wit, funny man, funny woman, prankster, jokester, clown, buffoon, character
    View synonyms


  • 1[reporting verb] Say something as a warning.

    [with clause] ‘the Chancellor cautioned that economic uncertainties remained’
    [with direct speech] ‘‘Be careful now,’ he cautioned’
    • ‘However, oil greases the national economy, and Gref cautioned on Thursday that the sector could be squeezed only so much before the economy started to suffer.’
    • ‘‘Any extension should also have a finite timeframe so that such extensions cannot be exploited indefinitely,’ he cautioned.’
    • ‘The mayor cautioned that the hike in property taxes is needed to comply with the state law requiring him to present a balanced budget.’
    • ‘Economic purists caution patience and promise a more efficient electricity market in the future.’
    • ‘Despite the waiter cautioning that some dishes are ‘quite spicy,’ anyone who's accustomed to ethnic foods will find it all very safe and very mild.’
    • ‘The organization agreed that a link between DU exposure and cancer has yet to be established but cautioned that its study relied heavily on military data.’
    • ‘The airline has repeatedly cautioned about the scale of competition in the low fares airline sector, but it expects to be the winner and become Europe's biggest carrier.’
    • ‘Thailand might experience a trade deficit for the first time since the country managed to weather the 1997 economic crisis, KRC cautioned.’
    • ‘‘We've got 10 minutes to make it to your appointment,’ the co-pilot cautioned.’
    • ‘He cautions, however, that the interdiction of migrant ships in international waters might be beyond Canada's ability.’
    • ‘And he cautions that all examples of behaviors that benefit individuals in the modern world are not necessarily products of evolution.’
    • ‘The State Department cautioned that US facilities worldwide could be closed temporarily ‘to assess security’.’
    • ‘De Sosa cautioned, though, that ‘cancel for any reason’ policies don't automatically assure you a refund.’
    • ‘However, the Local Government Management Services Board has cautioned that the figures can be disproportionately affected by a small number of long term absences.’
    • ‘If they have no social contact and no exercise, these dogs are psychologically and physically deprived - a situation dog experts have long cautioned can lead to aggression and attacks.’
    • ‘Finally, he calls for consideration of potential economic fallout, cautioning that new developments will inevitably displace older technologies.’
    • ‘Having sat on city committees and council and served as mayor for the past nine years, Matthews cautioned that the city can't afford to get directly involved in social programs.’
    • ‘However, Mr Neary cautioned that investors would face difficulties and extra costs in selling or buying shares if they opted to hold the share in physical share certificate form.’
    • ‘But they are cautioning here that it's too early to say that with any certainty.’
    • ‘The American Society of Travel Agents cautions, too, about companies that sell questionable ID cards.’
    1. 1.1[no object]Warn or advise against (doing something)
      ‘advisers have cautioned against tax increases’
      • ‘Local officials of the American Civil Liberties Union are cautioning the NAACP against pushing for aggressive prosecutions and imprisonment of people who use racial slurs.’
      • ‘In one of the essays, Feynman, who is one of the 20th century's smartest people, cautions against just this sort of thing in talking about the teaching of science to children.’
      • ‘However, he also cautions against unnecessary alarm.’
      • ‘When advising readers on choosing titles carefully, you caution against titles that may be too silly or trite.’
      • ‘However, she cautions against anything too strenuous, as muscle damage is more difficult to repair as we age.’
      • ‘In an accompanying editorial, Patriarca commends the study of new options for prevention of influenza but cautions against equating efficacy data with real-life effectiveness at a community level.’
      • ‘But Cilluffo cautions against over-generalizing about how U.S. authorities treat threats from Canada.’
      • ‘McCarthy at Penna stresses the importance of treating middle managers as major contributors to performance but cautions against going too far.’
      • ‘He cautions against trying to professionalise everything as there is a lot to be learnt from traditional construction techniques.’
      • ‘He cowrote an editorial in the current issue of The Nation cautioning activists against engaging in any activities that could be spun by the GOP or the media as inappropriate.’
      • ‘And Lowe, who himself is under pressure to succeed this season, cautions against expecting too much too soon from the 22-year-old.’
      • ‘But he cautions against letting your guard down.’
      • ‘The manager, whose prospects will be enhanced if Ronald De Boer can recover from a calf injury, cautions against adopting tactics designed only to avoid defeat.’
      • ‘However, he cautions against cheap supplements that don't contain a standardised extract; a dose of 900 mg - 1,800 mg was used in most trials.’
      • ‘Brian Boyd, professor of education at Strathclyde University, cautions against the idea of a quick fix.’
      • ‘Before concluding, we reiterate the importance of high morale and caution against false rumors, defeatism, uncertainty, and discouragement.’
      • ‘Tom Soule, a wildlife coordinator for the DNR in northwestern Minnesota, cautions against applying Waller's research in Wisconsin to Minnesota.’
      • ‘The Natural Child cautions against practices like ignoring a baby's cries to foster self-reliance or having the baby sleep in a separate room.’
      • ‘He cautions against listening to physicians who advocate over-the-counter remedies.’
      • ‘The end result of this idea is a broad consensus across the political spectrum that cautions against foreign interventions unless they are required for national security reasons.’
      advise, warn, recommend, counsel, urge, admonish, exhort
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2British [with object]Issue an official or legal warning to.
      ‘he was cautioned for possessing drugs’
      • ‘The full-back, who was cautioned for the tackle, required attention for fully four minutes before being removed from the field on a stretcher.’
      • ‘Police later arrested a 45-year-old man, who was cautioned for the attack.’
      • ‘None of them mentioned that there had been a noise abatement notice served on those premises in June 2000 or that the landlady had been cautioned for breach of it on 17.1.01.’
      • ‘Approximately a year previously the appellant had been cautioned for a minor indecent assault on an 11 year-old boy.’
      • ‘In June 1996, Horrocks was cautioned for battering down a neighbour's door because he thought the music was too loud.’
      • ‘He admitted hitting himself in the face with a brick to make his tale more believable and was cautioned for wasting police time.’
      • ‘If he was a suspect, then he should have been cautioned and offered legal advice.’
      • ‘Of the 26 people arrested, 17 were cautioned for having cannabis.’
      • ‘Further, in the case of those convicted of specified criminal offences or who have been cautioned there are now in place stringent requirements.’
      • ‘A woman from Leyland Road was cautioned for possessing cannabis.’
      • ‘The referee is surrounded by a mass of home team players, three of whom are cautioned for dissent, and the goalkeeper is sent off violent conduct.’
      • ‘Grant was cautioned for an illegal block, and Wimbledon had a penalty corner, but didn't get a decent shot.’
      • ‘The young striker then appeared to be held in the area but when the appeals were turned down Ian McKain was cautioned for protesting.’
      • ‘The judge said he was concerned the youth was a fire raiser after hearing that he was seen peering round a corner at the firefighters and was cautioned for a building skip fire when aged 12.’
      • ‘The court heard he was cautioned for stealing and crashing his father's car in February 2000.’
      • ‘Miss Grundy was officially cautioned for not disposing of commercial waste properly.’
      • ‘The boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was cautioned for his part in the break-in and the couple were charged with false imprisonment and common assault, which both deny.’
      • ‘The court heard he had a previous conviction for wounding, and eight years ago was cautioned for pointing a toy police gun at a security guard.’
      • ‘Bollan was cautioned for his potentially reckless tackle.’
      • ‘I was interested to read about the driver who was cautioned for playing his music too loudly in his car and the ensuing outcry from both the media and from the driver himself.’
      warn, admonish, give an injunction to
      View synonyms
    3. 1.3British [with object](of a police officer) advise (someone) of their legal rights when arresting them.
      ‘having cautioned her, the police were ready to take her away for questioning’
      • ‘He arrested the claimant on suspicion of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and when cautioned the claimant made no reply.’
      • ‘At most, it might be called investigative detention which does not require cautioning a person or advising him or her of a right to retain and instruct counsel.’
      • ‘D was cautioned and interviewed on 20th March 2003 with his mother present.’
      • ‘Before his interview the defendant was cautioned.’
      • ‘As soon as the routine questions were completed, the officer cautioned the defendants who were interviewed later that day.’
      • ‘The Claimant was then arrested by PC Groves for an offence under the Public Order Act 1986 and the Claimant was cautioned.’
      • ‘When the police arrived, they handcuffed him, probably cautioned him and took him to 31 Division for questioning.’
      • ‘Rather than cautioning him, Officer Muller instead asked Mr. Stephen whether there was anything on his person that could hurt either of them.’
      • ‘While at the desk he is reminded that he has been cautioned about obtaining legal advice and asked twice if he wishes to speak to a lawyer.’
      • ‘The magistrates found that P.C. Donohoe was trying to establish the ownership of the laptop computer at that stage and there was no requirement for the appellant to be cautioned.’
      • ‘He asked questions without first cautioning her because he wanted to be 100% sure that the bag belonged to the suspect.’
      • ‘They were both cautioned and given their rights as required by statute and he exercised a right of silence, effectively.’
      • ‘He was cautioned and advised of his rights in respect of the burglary tool charge and was taken to the police station by D.C. Chilvers and D.C. Moreau.’
      • ‘PC Lees arrested him for possession of the tablets with intent to supply; she cautioned him and he made no reply.’
      • ‘PC Caroline Watkins, who arrested the defendant and cautioned him, said he made no reply.’
      • ‘My Lord, they declined to call him and said, and this we respectfully say is important, that he would want to take legal advice before giving evidence and that he may need to be cautioned.’
      • ‘After the defendant was cautioned, he replied: ‘Definitely not guilty.’’
      • ‘Henry arrested him for driving with excess alcohol in his blood, read him his rights to counsel, and cautioned him on his right to remain silent.’
      • ‘It is only when the police have reasonable cause to suspect that an offence may have been committed that a suspected offender should be cautioned.’
      • ‘Mr Clarke was accompanied by a solicitor and was cautioned by the coroner before taking the stand.’
      warn, admonish, give an injunction to
      View synonyms


  • err on the side of caution

    • Take a comparatively safe course of action when presented with a choice.

      ‘it is better for a doctor to err on the side of caution and follow the most restrictive view of the law’
      • ‘My advice to learner drivers and anyone else, would be to err on the side of caution and make sure that if your car leaves the driveway it is fully insured.’
      • ‘Ambulance staff, who refused to be named, told Scotland on Sunday they believed NHS 24 operators erred on the side of caution too often, particularly with respiratory symptoms and patients who might have a broken ankle or wrist.’
      • ‘City of York Council grits around 50 per cent of the network and there is a determination to err on the side of caution.’
      • ‘In last month's World Cup qualifier against Belarus at Hampden, he had been guilty of erring on the side of caution in fielding Kenny Miller as a one-man strikeforce.’
      • ‘However, they were ill-suited to vetting such ‘assets’, and erred on the side of caution.’
      • ‘We erred on the side of caution and had a high-profile police presence.’
      • ‘Whether its emissions will be a health hazard is not yet known and, rather than erring on the side of caution, it seems that our councillors are content for residents and workers in the area to be guinea pigs.’
      • ‘The damage may not be proven but we don't know, and we should err on the side of caution.’
      • ‘However, both train companies are erring on the side of caution because the plans are yet to be approved.’
      • ‘We assess the risk and try to identify what sort of gun it is - but there will be a small number of cases where we do not know that it is a toy or replica and if that is the case we would have to err on the side of caution.’
  • throw caution to the wind (or winds)

    • Act in a completely reckless manner.

      ‘you may even throw caution to the wind and try one of our Mystery Trips’
      • ‘Parents might throw caution to the wind where their own skin is concerned, but warnings that play on the vulnerability of children are more likely to hit home.’
      • ‘But it was business as usual for the workmates at Mitre House on Monday as they resisted the temptation to throw caution to the wind and leave their jobs.’
      • ‘So I will throw caution to the wind and make a sweeping prediction.’
      • ‘The TUC has chosen a poor time to suggest throwing caution to the wind when so many firms are under pressure from rising costs.’
      • ‘And once in your life you'll get at least one opportunity, one challenge to throw caution to the wind, take the big risk, break free and follow your dream.’
      • ‘You've guessed it - I threw caution to the wind, and visited Gary in Nottingham.’
      • ‘"Go ahead, " I told her, throwing caution to the wind.’
      • ‘For all these reasons the pill has long been credited not only as a vital ingredient in the rise of feminism but a precursor to the swinging Sixties, the tool that enabled a generation to throw caution to the wind.’
      • ‘So, as usual, you throw caution to the winds and hope that, when the bills do come through, they won't be quite as bad as you know they will.’
      • ‘With drink and festive cheer in excess, it's easy to throw caution to the wind and find yourself acting recklessly on a Christmas night out.’
      commit oneself, go for it, give it one's all, give it all one has, go all out
      View synonyms
  • under caution

    • Having been told of one's legal rights when under arrest.

      ‘she made a statement under caution’
      • ‘The Yorkshire Post has learnt that an investigation including statements given under caution by police officers found that the official winner of a vote for secretary of the South Yorkshire Police Federation should actually have lost.’
      • ‘There were investigations by both Social Services and the police, and indeed the appellant was interviewed under caution in November 2002.’
      • ‘When he was interviewed under caution he gave an account to the police officers which was basically similar to that which he gave in evidence.’
      • ‘Finally, it is also pertinent to note that the admission was never put to the appellant during his subsequent interview under caution.’
      • ‘The new evidence is not inconsistent with the statement Mr Jamieson made under caution to the police on 10th January 1957.’


Middle English (denoting bail or a guarantee; now chiefly Scots and US): from Latin cautio(n-), from cavere take heed.