The title page of a 1567 reprint of Thomas Harman’s book, A Caveat or Warning, for Common Cursitors Vulgarly Called Vagabonds (sense 1). It contains stories of vagabond life, a description of the types of vagabonds and techniques that they used, and a dictionary of cant.

Borrowed from Latin caveat (may he beware of), from caveō (I beware of), from Proto-Italic *kawēō (to beware, be mindful of), from Proto-Indo-European *(s)kewh₁- (to perceive; to pay attention).



caveat (plural caveats)

  1. A warning.
    There is at least one caveat in cultivation: you’ll have to stick to only one discipline, such as that according to Bhaiṣajyaguru, the Medicine Buddha.
    • 1576, George Whetstone, “The Ortchard of Repentance: []”, in The Rocke of Regard, Diuided into Foure Parts. [...], London: [] Robert Waley, OCLC 837515946; republished in J[ohn] P[ayne] Collier, editor, The Rocke of Regard, Diuided into Foure Parts. [...] (Illustrations of Early English Poetry; vol. 2, no. 2), London: Privately printed, [1867?], OCLC 706027473, page 291:
      And ſure, although it was invented to eaſe his mynde of griefe, there be a number of caveats therein to forewarne other young gentlemen to foreſtand with good government their folowing yl fortunes; []
    • 1986 March 9, Roy Blount Jr., “Able were they ere they saw cable”, in The New York Times:
      Two young Harvard M.B.A.'s worked up some highly optimistic projections—with the caveat that these were speculative and should of course be tested.
  2. A qualification or exemption.
    He gave his daughter some hyacinth bulbs with the caveat that she plant them in the shade.
    • 2014 August 26, Jamie Jackson, “Ángel di María says Manchester United were the ‘only club’ after Real”, in The Guardian[1], London, archived from the original on 8 July 2017:
      If a midfielder and a defender are acquired by 1 September then Louis van Gaal will consider United's summer in the market almost a success. The one caveat is that the Dutchman wished to have finished strengthening the squad before the start of the season.
  3. (law) A formal objection.
    • 1849 August 25, Thomas Webster, “Law of Patents.—Report of the Committee on the Signet and Privy Seal Offices. Extracts from Minutes of Evidence.”, in J[oseph] C[linton] Robertson, editor, Mechanics’ Magazine, Museum, Register, Journal, and Gazette, volume LI, number 1359, London: Robertson and Co., Mechanics' Magazine Offices, No. 166, Fleet-street, London; and No. 99B, New-Street, Birmingham, OCLC 266077492, pages 185–186:
      If I adhered to the system of caveats, which would throw it upon an individual to be cautious, and to look out lest he should not have notice, if he did not enter a caveat I would require him to specify in respect of what he entered his caveat. General caveats, I think, should not be allowed against all the world and against general inventions, for the same reasons that I would not allow a person to have a patent for a general title without specifying upon what improvements he applied for a patent.
    1. (law) A formal notice of interest in land under a Torrens land-title system.
      • 1861 May 29, Mr. Belt, “Minutes of Evidence”, in Real Property Law Commission, South Australia (chairman: Chief Justice Charles Cooper), Report of the Real Property Law Commission, with Minutes of Evidence and Appendix. Ordered by the Parliament to be Prited ([Parliamentary Paper, 1861]; no. 192), Adelaide, S.A.: Printed by authority, by W. C. Cox, Government Printer, Victoria-Square, published November 1861, OCLC 25403865, page 94:
        The necessity for caveats arise in two cases: one class of caveats is prohibitory as regards some contemplated dealing or transaction affecting the property described in the caveat; while another class of caveats arises out of adverse claims to the land itself, or to some estate or interest in the land.
      • 2005, Geoffrey Moore, “Torrens Title: Priorities between Unregistered Interests”, in David Barker, editor, Essential Real Property (Cavendish Essential Series), Coogee, N.S.W.: Cavendish Publishing (Australia), →ISBN, page 76:
        The purpose of a caveat is to give a person who has an unregistered interest in a property the ability to protect that interest from the harshness of indefeasibility of title, which is enjoyed by a later interest which is registered, assuming there is no exception to indefeasibility available to the holder of the earlier unregistered interest. Section 74H of the Real Property Act provides that a caveat operates to prevent dealings that are subsequently lodged from obtaining registration. In the absence of a caveat precluding the later interest from becoming registered, the later interest would be registerd and upon registration would enjoy the benefit of immediate indefeasibility of title.
  4. (law) A notice requesting a postponement of a court proceeding.



caveat (third-person singular simple present caveats, present participle caveating or caveatting, simple past and past participle caveated or caveatted)

  1. (transitive, regarded by some as nonstandard) To qualify a statement with a caveat or proviso.
    • 1918, Edward Lucas White, “Conference”, in The Unwilling Vestal: A Tale of Rome under the Cæsars, New York, N.Y.: E[dward] P[ayson] Dutton & Company, 681 Fifth Avenue, OCLC 1285185, page 121:
      The Emperor smiled more than a half smile. / "I am not sure," he said, "that any harm was done, anyhow." / "What!" cried Brinnaria. "You excuse me? You defend me?" / "Softly! Softly!" the Emperor caveatted, raising his hand. "I do not acquit you nor exonerate you. But I do make allowances. []"
    • [1992, Robert McCrum; William Cran; Robert MacNeil, The Story of English, new and revised edition, London; Boston, Mass.: Faber and Faber; London: BBC Books, →ISBN, page 30:
      Some years ago, General Alexander Haig [] was widely criticized (and parodied) for using nouns as verbs in a highly idiosyncratic way, known as Haigspeak: phrases like "I'll have to caveat my response, Senator, and I'll caveat that", [] From one point of view, however, Haig was merely displaying the virtuosity of English, if not its grace.]
    • 1996, Ray[mond M.] Saunders, Blood Tells: A Thriller, Novato, Calif.: Lyford Books, →ISBN, page 217:
      I want to caveat everything I say with the disclaimer that I was working from photos.
    • 2015, Stuart Armstrong; Kaj Sotala, “How We’re Predicting AI – or Failing to”, in Jan Romportl, Eva Zakova, and Jozef Kelemen, editors, Beyond Artificial Intelligence: The Disappearing Human–Machine Divide (Topics in Intelligent Engineering and Informatics; 9), Cham, Switzerland: Springer, DOI:10.1007/978-3-319-09668-1, →ISBN, ISSN 2193-9411, page 19:
      Here, by clarifying and caveatting assumptions, and revealing hidden assumption, we reduce the number of worlds in which the prediction is valid. This means that the prediction puts fewer constraints on our expectations. In counterpart, of course, the caveatted prediction is likely to be true.
  2. (transitive, law) To formally object to something.
    • 1722, “a clergyman of the Church of England” [pseudonym; Thomas Stackhouse], The Miseries and Great Hardships of the Inferiour Clergy, in and about London. And a Modest Plea for Their Rights, and Better Usage; in a Letter to the Right Reverend Father in God, John Lord Bishop of London, London: Printed for T[homas] Payne, at the Crown in Pater-Noster-Row, OCLC 723170834, paragraph 3, page 175:
      But of all the Strategems to prevent the obtaining of Licences, commend me to that of entring Caveats againſt one another's Curates; a Project of vaſt Contrivance, and worthy the renowned Head that firſt invented it. By this means, 'tis eaſy to ſee, that if there be but Confederacy enough among the Incumbents, and Corruption enough in the Officer that receives them, the whole Body of Curates may be demoliſhed at once. "Tis but changing Hands, my caveating yours, and your caveating my Curate, and then a Fig for the Canons, that require them to be licenc'd Preachers."
    • 1847 October 16, “Magnetic Telegraph”, in American Railroad Journal and General Advertiser for Railroads, Canals, Steamboats, Machinery and Mines, volume III, number 42 (Second Quarto Series; volume XX, number 591 overall), Philadelphia, Pa.: Published by D. K. Minor, editor and proprietor, No. 105 Chestnut Street, OCLC 7399843, page 659, column 2:
      With the facts that may thus be brought distinctly before the public, it may soon become generally understood whether Professor [Royal Earl] House's Letter Printing telegraph (the only American telegraph patented in Great Britain and other European kingdoms as well as in the United States) is any infringement of Prof. [Samuel] Morse's patent, or of anything which Prof. Morse has a right to claim; and it will also be seen whether the telegraph system caveatted in the United States Patent office by Col. Charles B. Moss, of Virginia, under claim for a patent, (in the same way that Prof. Morse caveatted his "vital" "principle" as late as 1845–6) is or is not at least as original and effective as any telegraph that makes arbitrary signs like the dots and lines first used by [Carl August von] Steinheil and by Davey[sic, meaning Edward Davy] in 1837 and 1838, and afterwards combined by Prof. Morse in his first patent of 1840.
    • 1857, B. Y. Martin, reporter, “No. 7.—William H. Hendry, guardian, plaintiff in error, vs. James M. Hurst and wife, defendants in error.”, in Reports of Cases in Law and Equity, Argued and Determined in the Supreme Court of the State of Georgia, [...], volume XXII, Columbus, Ga.: Times and Sentinel Steam Press, published 1858, OCLC 560986063, page 314:
      Hurst in right of his wife, by counsel, on the 21st June, 1855, entered his caveat against the foregoing return and vouchers, and objected. [] 3d. He caveats the charge of fifty dollars paid McIntyre & Young, for making returns, as illegal and not a proper charge against ward. 4th. He also caveats the two expenditures to McIntyre & Ward and C. B. Cole, each for $150 00, as illegal, being for professional services rendered in defending himself in a suit against for mal-administration as guardian.
    1. (transitive, law, specifically) To lodge a formal notice of interest in land under a Torrens land-title system.
      • 2005, Geoffrey Moore, “Torrens Title: Priorities between Unregistered Interests”, in David Barker, editor, Essential Real Property (Cavendish Essential Series), Coogee, N.S.W.: Cavendish Publishing (Australia), →ISBN, page 93:
        It is unclear whether or not a purchaser upon exchange of contracts will be regarded as guilty of postponing conduct if failing to caveat.
  3. (transitive, law, dated) To issue a notice requesting that proceedings be suspended.
    • 1838 June, Judge William Gaston, “'Hannah Gee v. Henry Gee and Peyton R. Tunstall'”, in Thomas P. Devereux and William H[orn] Battle, editors, Reports of Cases in Equity, Argued and Determined in the Supreme Court of North Carolina. From June Term, 1838, to December Term, 1839, both Inclusive, volume II, Raleigh, N.C.: Published by Turner and Hughes; Thos. J. Lemay, printer, published 1840, OCLC 20660094, page 108:
      The answer further alleged that the intestate, in right of his wife, caveated the probate in Virginia of the will of one William Hill, her relation; []
    • 1913 December 6, Justice Street, “Probate Court. (Before Mr. Justice Street.) Disputed Will. Wills v. Craven.”, in The Sydney Morning Herald, page 5:
      The defendant, father of the testator, had caveated against granting of probate on the ground that the will was not duly executed, and that deceased did not know or approve of its contents.
  4. (transitive, obsolete) To warn or caution against some event.
    • 1663 December 14, Jo[hn] Scott; John Romeyn Brodhead, comp., “Captain John Scott to Under Secrty [Joseph] Williamson. [Plant. Genl. Miscell. Bundle. State Paper Office.]”, in Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New-York; Procured in Holland, England and France, by John Romeyn Broadhead, Esq., Agent, under and by virtue of an Act of the Legislature Entitled “An Act to Appoint an Agent to Procure and Transcribe Documents in Europe, Relative to the Colonial History of the State,” Passed May 2, 1839, volume III, Albany, N.Y.: Weed, Parsons and Company, printers, published 1853, OCLC 936434412, page 48:
      [] I beseach you to caveat any addresse being fully heard until some person commissioned from this Countrey be their to confront the sayd Dutch or their complices.
    • 1825, John Jamieson, “CHRISTSWOORT, Christmas Flower”, in Supplement to the Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language: [], volume I (A–J) (in Scots), Edinburgh: [] University Press; for W[illiam] & C[harles] Tait, []; London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, OCLC 863495133, page 210, column 1:
      It is said that the herb Christswoort, or Christmas flower, in plain English Black Helebore, (so called from its springing about this time) helpeth madnesse, distraction, purgeth melancholy and dulnesse. This last expression minds me to caveat the Reader, not to be angry at Helebore because it's called Christmas flowre; for it, poore thing, hurts no body that lets it alone, [] [quoting V. Annand's Mysterium Pietatis, pages 24–25.]
      (please add an English translation of this quote)

Usage notesEdit

The modern use of caveat as a verb meaning “to qualify with a proviso” is often considered awkward or improper.[1]

Derived termsEdit

Related termsEdit


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ See, for example, William A. McIntosh (2003) Guide to Effective Military Writing, 3rd edition, Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, →ISBN, page 59: “Using words such as "caveat," "resource," and "interface" as verbs is not only poor style, but also poor usage. They are nouns, not verbs, and they shouldn't be used as if they were.”.

Further readingEdit






  1. third-person singular present active subjunctive of caveō



caveat m (plural caveats)

  1. caveat