I have two versions of a sentence in mind:

  1. She found the water by the bed and took a sip, gingerly.
  2. She found the water by the bed and took a ginger sip.

The first would be correct in sense, but not (to me) a terribly interesting sentence in construction. The second sounds (to me) better, but the etymology doesn't seem to support it. "Gingerly" seems to have an origin unrelated to that of "ginger," and I cannot find examples of the word "ginger" used in this way. That said, maybe I just don't know where to look.

So I am interested to know: Would this usage make sense to readers? Are there perhaps examples of this usage that I've missed? Or would it be coloring outside the lines, so to speak?

Many thanks.

  • 1
    There are no examples for (2) to be found because ginger is not used in that way. As you say, it has a different origin. Commented Jun 7, 2020 at 13:49
  • The second does sound nicer, but if you decide not to use ginger then perhaps version 3: "...and gingerly took a sip."
    – nnnnnn
    Commented Jun 7, 2020 at 18:32
  • 2
    The word gingerly is in dictionaries both as an adverb and an adjective, and the adjective has the meaning you want. Commented Jun 7, 2020 at 19:49
  • 1
    “a cautious sip” would be idiomatic.
    – Xanne
    Commented Jun 7, 2020 at 20:23

1 Answer 1


The Oxford English Dictionary lists “ginger” as a synonymous backformation of “gingerly” (and unrelated to the plant/color “ginger”), with examples dating back as far as 1600. Of the modern examples it says “chiefly English regional and North American”.

Being American, I agree that it sounds natural in some cases:

  I was very ginger with her. I picked her up very lightly, put her down very gently. — Unscripted, 2003

But in your example I think it’s liable to be confusing, because “ginger sip” makes me think of ginger tea or ginger ale or some other drink that has “ginger” in its name (and/or ingredients).

Because it’s dialectical, I would suggest not using it (unless it’s part of your dialect, in which case conversationally it’s probably fine but not elsewhere like in international or formal writing).

  • The adjective corresponding to the adverb gingerly is justly gingerly. The costly OED has several kindly examples of this. So He took a gingerly sip is all it takes.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jun 7, 2020 at 23:26

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