There are 2 main definitions of earnest in English:

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earnest 1

Syllabification: ear·nest
Pronunciation: /ˈərnəst/

adjective

Resulting from or showing sincere and intense conviction: an earnest student two girls were in earnest conversation
More example sentences
  • The truth was more that the agenda didn't fit with her sincere and earnest style, so why should she change in order to fit it?
  • Instead, earnest students of public policy are expected to read them onscreen as retrieved via the internet.
  • It is only through such earnest conversation that we can hope to approach clarity.
Synonyms
serious, solemn, grave, sober, humorless, staid, intense;
committed, dedicated, keen, diligent, zealous;
thoughtful, cerebral, deep, profound
devout, heartfelt, wholehearted, sincere, impassioned, fervent, ardent, intense, urgent

Phrases

in earnest

1
Occurring to a greater extent or more intensely than before: after Labor Day the campaign begins in earnest
More example sentences
  • Images of sun-kissed beaches wash over us as the travel agents' television advertising campaigns begin in earnest.
  • This worldwide expansion, which began in earnest in the early 1970s, has not been without difficulties.
  • The inquiry begins in earnest as the first witnesses give evidence.
1.1(Of a person) sincere and serious in behavior or convictions.
Example sentences
  • We move on to Knightley and at first you think he can't be serious, but Sutherland is always in earnest, even when joking.
Synonyms
serious, sincere, wholehearted, genuine;
committed, firm, resolute, determined
zealously, purposefully, determinedly, resolutely;
passionately, wholeheartedly

Derivatives

earnestly

1
Pronunciation: /ˈərnəs(t)lē/
adverb
Example sentences
  • Any given scientific project may be good, but it may also be earnestly pursued and gravely in error.
  • I know that he earnestly and seriously believes the factual content of everything he says.
  • Many of the youngsters entering the arena of serious theatre now take this objective quite earnestly.
Synonyms
seriously, solemnly, gravely, intently;
sincerely, resolutely, firmly, ardently, fervently, eagerly

Origin

Old English eornoste (adjective), eornost (noun), of Germanic origin; related to German Ernst (noun).

Words that rhyme with earnest

Ernest

Definition of earnest in:

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There are 2 main definitions of earnest in English:

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earnest 2 Syllabification: ear·nest
Pronunciation: /ˈərnəst/

noun

[in singular]
A thing intended or regarded as a sign or promise of what is to come: the presence of the troops is an earnest of the world’s desire not to see the conflict repeated elsewhere
More example sentences
  • It is but a trifle that Sauron fancies, and an earnest of your good will.
  • It was a touching tribute never since accorded to any other author, and an earnest of the esteem in which he was held.

Origin

Middle English ernes, literally 'installment paid to confirm a contract', based on Old French erres, from Latin arra, shortened form of arrabo 'a pledge'. The spelling was influenced by words ending in -ness; the final -t is probably by association with earnest1.

Definition of earnest in:

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