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 the rights of the unborn child will be inviolate —A. E. Wilkerson, 1973

• It is doubtful whether the Peloponnesian detachment was dispatched during the actual celebration of the Olympic games —Classical Quarterly, 1976

• Murray was doubtful as to whether this would be enough —N. Tranter, 1987

• Even if Amelia McLean had made more ambitious claims, it is doubtful whether anyone would have listened to her —S. Reynolds, 1989

• It was doubtful if Midge would ever again sleep in their old bedroom —D. Rutherford, 1990

• It seems doubtful that such an item would have been produced much after c.1550 —J. Litten, 1991.

2. Doubtful and dubious overlap in meaning but they should not be confused. Doubtful implies uncertainty about facts, whereas dubious implies suspicion about value or genuineness. Both words can be used of people or situations, but dubious is not normally followed by any of the constructions described above in relation to doubt and doubtful. The following examples (in addition to those already given) will clarify the differences between doubtful and dubious: (doubtful)

• We're always a little doubtful about statements that have to be forced out of witnesses by revealing the extent of our prior information —R. Hill, 1987

• ‘Are you sure?’ she said doubtfully —T. Pratchett, 1990

• If your tap water is of doubtful quality then you must be prepared to remedy the situation or use rain water instead —Practical Fishkeeping, 1992

• Then meeting Sophie's anxious gaze, she said briskly, ‘Now don't look so doubtful.’ —M. Bowring, 1993

• (dubious) We still had the dubious privilege of representing two ‘resting’ actors —M. Babson, 1971

• Dreaming of luxury, of the quick buck dubiously acquired —R. Barnard, 1980

• Christine was a little dubious about Judith using brown eyeshadow, worrying that her eyes might end up looking bloodshot —She, 1989

• The right of people to know the human cost was overruled on the dubious grounds that this information could help the enemy —Action, 1991

• Voters are already dubious about the point of a deputy prime minister —Times, 2007.

Modern English usage. 2014.


Look at other dictionaries:

  • Dubious — Du bi*ous, a. [L. dubius, dubiosus, fr. duo two. See {Two}, and cf. {Doubt}.] 1. Doubtful or not settled in opinion; being in doubt; wavering or fluctuating; undetermined. Dubious policy. Sir T. Scott. [1913 Webster] A dubious, agitated state of… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • dubious — [do͞o′bē əs, dyo͞o′bē əs] adj. [L dubiosus, doubtful < dubius, doubting, uncertain < du < or akin to duo, TWO + IE base * bhu , *bheu , to BE] 1. causing doubt; ambiguous; vague [a dubious remark] 2. feeling doubt; hesitating; skeptical… …   English World dictionary

  • dubious — [adj1] doubtful arguable, chancy, debatable, diffident, disputable, dubitable, equivocal, far fetched, fishy*, fly by night*, hesitant, iffy*, improbable, indecisive, moot, mootable, open, perplexed, problematic, questionable, reluctant, shady,… …   New thesaurus

  • dubious — I adjective ambiguous, anceps, arguable, chancy, conditional, confusing, confutable, contestable, contingent, controversial, controvertible, debatable, dependent, disputable, doubtful, dubitative, dubius, equivocal, fallible, hazy, in dispute, in …   Law dictionary

  • dubious — 1540s, from L. dubiosus doubtful, from dubium doubt, neuter of dubius vacillating, moving two ways, fluctuating; figuratively wavering in opinion, doubting, doubtful, from duo two (see TWO (Cf. two)), with a sense of of two minds, undecided… …   Etymology dictionary

  • dubious — *doubtful, questionable, problematic Analogous words: suspicious, skeptical, mistrustful, uncertain (see corresponding nouns at UNCERTAINTY): hesitant, reluctant, *disinclined Antonyms: cocksure (state of mind, opinion): reliable (of things in… …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • dubious — ► ADJECTIVE 1) hesitating or doubting. 2) not to be relied upon. 3) of questionable value; suspect. DERIVATIVES dubiously adverb dubiousness noun. ORIGIN Latin dubiosus, from dubium a doubt …   English terms dictionary

  • dubious — du|bi|ous [ˈdju:biəs US ˈdu: ] adj [Date: 1500 1600; : Latin; Origin: dubius, from dubare to be unable to decide ] 1.) probably not honest, true, right etc ▪ The firm was accused of dubious accounting practices. ▪ Many critics regard this… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • dubious — [[t]dju͟ːbiəs, AM du͟ː [/t]] 1) ADJ GRADED If you describe something as dubious, you mean that you do not consider it to be completely honest, safe, or reliable. This claim seems to us to be rather dubious... Soho was still a highly dubious area …   English dictionary

  • dubious — du|bi|ous [ dubiəs ] adjective * 1. ) not sure about the truth or quality of something, or whether you should do something: dubious about: I m very dubious about his ability to do the job. We were dubious about signing the deal. 2. ) not… …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

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