Definition of provisional in English:



  • 1Arranged or existing for the present, possibly to be changed later.

    ‘a provisional government’
    ‘provisional bookings’
    • ‘Much of the uncertainty surrounds the dizzying number of ways of qualifying for a provisional ballot, a sort of emergency ballot that allows voters to cast a vote at the polls, then have their eligibility checked after the election.’
    • ‘It was a kind of empire built on very provisional and tentative things that might happen.’
    • ‘This explanation should be regarded as provisional at present, but it does suggest several important directions for future work.’
    • ‘If the fee is acceptable to WD King then I hope that your commitments permit our provisional meeting in Bath next Monday to go ahead.’
    • ‘Its findings are never true in an absolute now-and-forever sense; they are always provisional and can always be improved.’
    • ‘‘Work is ongoing in processing these cases, with a view to issuing provisional entitlement statements as soon as possible’, she said.’
    • ‘Workers established dual power, whereby there were workers' councils on the one hand and a provisional government using the existing state institutions on the other.’
    • ‘A spokesman for Bradford Council said a provisional arrangement had been made but it was never confirmed, so no-one attended.’
    • ‘Blackwell ruled that persons who had requested, but not received their absentee ballots, would not be permitted to cast a provisional ballot.’
    • ‘Statehood, even if qualified as provisional or interim, confers a degree of sovereignty.’
    • ‘Where uncertainty or dispute exists and it is necessary for a some factual determination to be made in order to comply with the brief, only tentative or provisional views will be expressed.’
    • ‘We have now made provisional bookings so we need names and deposits immediately to secure accommodation.’
    • ‘A provisional date of has been pencilled in for the York and District Cup final between Selby Warriors and York Groves.’
    • ‘That report contains provisional proposals for the construction of major flood alleviation works within the Edgware Brook and Silk Stream catchments.’
    • ‘In the meantime, the provisional festival programme has thrown up some intriguing possibilities for a couple of good nights on the town.’
    • ‘‘There is nothing unusual about changes to provisional star-rating status prior to publication,’ he told MPs.’
    • ‘In general practice in the United Kingdom, it is possible to make provisional decisions with patients and to review them.’
    • ‘While my research into these matters is not yet complete, I would like to present my provisional conclusions.’
    • ‘Lots of top-notch breweries are set to be represented (although the beer list is provisional and subject to change).’
    • ‘Preliminary and provisional findings are presented, sometimes before peer review and without appropriate caveats, as proof of links between lethal diseases and familiar products or activities.’
    interim, temporary, pro tem
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1British (of a driving licence) to be obtained before starting to learn to drive and upgraded to a full licence on passing a driving test.
      ‘Norman as yet had only a provisional licence’
      • ‘He also admitted to driving with faulty brakes and steering, and to driving illegally with a provisional licence, which he got following a previous disqualification.’
      • ‘Obviously, in order to enable a person who has been disqualified to pass a test, he would have to be able to drive and obtain a provisional licence to do so.’
      • ‘Six drivers received fixed penalty tickets for offences ranging from driving unaccompanied on a provisional licence to driving while using a mobile phone.’
      • ‘Her lawyer claimed that she had 30 driving lessons in the past, but had never passed her test and failed to renew her provisional driving licence after moving house.’
      • ‘The court also heard that on April 2 this year, although she only has a provisional driving licence, she drove unaccompanied along the M4.’
    2. 1.2 (of a postage stamp) put into circulation temporarily, usually owing to the unavailability of the definitive issue.
      • ‘Some of the most coveted United States postage stamps are the crude provisional stamps used by early postmasters from 1845 to 1846 before the Stamp Act was legislated.’
      • ‘Provisional stamps are usually made by overprinting, surcharging and occasionally by bisecting pre-existing stamps.’
  • 2Denoting the unofficial wings of the IRA and Sinn Fein established in 1969 and advocating terrorism.

    ‘the Provisional IRA’
    • ‘Claimed to be a blow at ‘the colonial economic structure’ and the British ruling class, this Provisional bomb killed six people, most of them members of the crew of a bin-lorry.’
    • ‘Police have linked the Provisional IRA to a large cache of arms recovered in Belfast over the weekend.’
    • ‘The Official IRA declared a ceasefire in the summer of 1972, and subsequently the term IRA has been used for the organisation that had developed from the 'Provisional' IRA.’
    • ‘Even though the shooting took place in the staunchly republican west Belfast, security sources immediately ruled out any Provisional IRA involvement.’


  • 1A provisional stamp.

    • ‘Dr. Maffeo was able to assemble a remarkable number of rare Postmaster's Provisionals, both United States and Confederate as well as two Inverted Jennys.’
    • ‘The New Orleans 5c Provisionals are the most common of the CSA provisional stamps and the ones most likely to be acquired by the average collector.’
  • 2A member of the Provisional wings of the IRA or Sinn Fein.

    • ‘When the Provisionals broke away from Official Sinn Féin / IRA in the early days of the Troubles they had little or no interest in politics.’
    • ‘It is not clear that the men arrested in Colombia, at least two of whom are convicted IRA bomb-makers, represent the Provisionals or, for that matter, the Real IRA.’
    • ‘The Provisionals were not ‘terrorists’, in that they were predominantly waging a campaign focused on British occupation forces.’
    • ‘Separately, Special Branch detectives said this weekend that Garda surveillance had resumed on alleged members of the Provisionals in Dublin, including people associated with Sinn Féin.’
    • ‘The Officials were pulled into violence in the north, though were consistently less aggressive than the Provisionals.’