Etymology
Advertisement
wary (adj.)

late 15c., with -y (2) + ware, from Old English wær "prudent, aware, alert, wary," from Proto-Germanic *waraz (source also of Old Norse varr "attentive," Gothic wars "cautious," Old Saxon giwar, Middle Dutch gheware, Old High German giwar, German gewahr "aware"), from PIE root *wer- (3) "perceive, watch out for." Related: Warily; wariness.

Related entries & more 
Advertisement
unwary (adj.)
by 1570s, possibly late 14c., from un- (1) "not" + wary (adj.). Old English had unwær "incautious," unwærlic. Related: Unwarily.
Related entries & more 
*wer- (3)

Proto-Indo-European root meaning "perceive, watch out for."

It forms all or part of: Arcturus; avant-garde; award; aware; beware; Edward; ephor; garderobe; guard; hardware; irreverence; lord; panorama; pylorus; rearward; regard; revere; reverence; reverend; reward; software; steward; vanguard; ward; warden; warder; wardrobe; ware (n.) "manufactured goods, goods for sale;" ware (v.) "to take heed of, beware;" warehouse; wary.

It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Latin vereri "to observe with awe, revere, respect, fear;" Greek ouros "a guard, watchman," horan "to see;" Hittite werite- "to see;" Old English weard "a guarding, protection; watchman, sentry, keeper."

Related entries & more 
heedful (adj.)
"cautious, wary," 1540s, from heed (n.) + -ful.
Related entries & more 
circumspect (adj.)

"cautious, wary," literally "looking about on all sides," early 15c., from Latin circumspectus "deliberate, guarded, well-considered," past participle of circumspicere "look around, take heed," from circum "around, round about" (see circum-) + specere "to look" (from PIE root *spek- "to observe"). Related: Circumspectly; circumspectness.

Related entries & more 
Advertisement
beware (v.)

"be on one's guard," c. 1200, probably a contraction of be ware "be wary, be careful," from Middle English ware (adj.), from Old English wær "prudent, aware, alert, wary," from Proto-Germanic *waraz, from PIE root *wer- (3) "perceive, watch out for." Old English had the compound bewarian "to defend," which perhaps contributed to the word. Compare begone.

Like be gone, now begone, be ware came to be written as one word, beware, and then was classed by some authors with the numerous verbs in be-, and inflected accordingly; hence the erroneous forms bewares in Ben Jonson, and bewared in Dryden. [Century Dictionary]
Related entries & more 
aware (adj.)

late Old English gewær "watchful, vigilant," from Proto-Germanic *ga-waraz (source also of Old Saxon giwar, Middle Dutch gheware, Old High German giwar, German gewahr), from *ga-, intensive prefix, + *waraz "wary, cautious," from PIE root *wer- (3) "perceive, watch out for."

Related entries & more 
astute (adj.)
"keen in discernment and careful of one's self-interest," 1610s, from Latin astutus "crafty, wary, shrewd; sagacious, expert," from astus "cunning, cleverness, adroitness," which is of uncertain origin. The Romans considered it to be from Greek asty "town," borrowed into Latin and implying city sophistication (see asteism). Related: Astutely; astuteness.

An alternative form is astucious (1823), from French astucieux, from Latin astutia "astuteness." Also formerly astucity.
Related entries & more 
chamois (n.)

1550s, "Alpine antelope;" 1570s, "soft leather," originally "skin of the chamois," from French chamois "Alpine antelope" (14c.), from Late Latin camox (genitive camocis), perhaps from a pre-Latin Alpine language that also produced Italian camoscio, Spanish camuza, Old High German gamiza, German Gemse (though some of these might be from Latin camox). As a verb, "to polish with chamois," from 1934. Compare shammy.

Its size is about that of a well-grown goat, and it is so agile that it can clear at a bound crevices 16 or 18 feet wide. The chamois is one of the most wary of antelopes, and possesses the power of scenting man at an almost incredible distance, so that the hunting of it is an occupation of extreme difficulty and much danger. [Century Dictionary]
Related entries & more 
canny (adj.)

"knowing, wise," 1630s, from a Scottish and northern English formation from can (v.1) in its sense of "know how to," + -y (2). A doublet of cunning that flowered into distinct senses in Scottish English. In the glossary to Scott's "Heart of Mid-Lothian" (1818) uncanny is defined as "dangerous," while canny, as used in the tale, is defined as "skilful, prudent, lucky ; in a superstitious sense, good-conditioned, and safe to deal with ; trustworthy ; quiet." Cannily is "gently" and canny moment is "an opportune or happy time."

"Knowing," hence, from 18c., "careful, skillful, clever," also "frugal, thrifty," and, from early 19c. (perhaps via Scott's novels) "cautious, wary, shrewd." Often used superciliously of Scots by their southern neighbors (and their American cousins).

The Canny Scot is so well known as scarcely to require description. He carries caution, cunning, and selfishness to excess. Deceitful when a purpose is to be accomplished, he is not habitually deceitful. One thing he never loses sight of—his own interest. But of his own interest he is not the most enlightened judge. ["The Natural History of Scotsmen," in The Argosy, December 1865]

Related: Cannily; canniness.

Related entries & more