When something is cautionary, it’s meant to be a warning to you. Your parents might be fond of telling cautionary tales, like the one about the girl who got electrocuted sticking a knife into the toaster.

While driving, look for cautionary signs warning you of potential danger: falling rocks, kids crossing, hidden driveway. You might use cautionary words: “Watch your step! There’s glass all over the floor!” Don’t confuse cautionary with cautious, which means trying to avoid danger. Tell a cautionary tale about someone drowning because he swam too far out into the ocean and an overly cautious kid might decide never to swim again.

Definitions of cautionary

adj serving to warn

admonitory, exemplary, monitory, warning
deterring from action

adj warding off

intended or adapted to afford protection of some kind

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