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The title page of a 1567 reprint of Thomas Harman’s book, A Caveat or Warning, for Common Cursitors Vulgarly Called Vagabonds. 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.
    • 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 notice of interest in land under a Torrens land-title system.
  4. (law) A notice requesting a postponement of a court proceeding.



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

  1. (regarded by some as nonstandard) To qualify a statement with a caveat or proviso.
    • [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.
  2. (law) 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. (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. (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: Illustrating the Words in Their Different Significations, by Examples from Ancient and Modern Writers; Shewing Their Affinity to Those of Other Languages, and Especially the Northern; Explaining Many Terms, which, though Now Obsolete in England, were Formerly Common to Both Countries; and Elucidating National Rites, Customs, and Institutions, in Their Analogy to Those of Other Nations. [...] In Two Volumes, volume I (A–J), Edinburgh: Printed at the University Press; for W[illiam] & C[harles] Tait, 78, Prince's Street; 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.]

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