parlous

adjective
par·​lous | \ ˈpär-ləs How to pronounce parlous (audio) \

Definition of parlous

1 obsolete : dangerously shrewd or cunning
2 : full of danger or risk

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Other Words from parlous

parlously adverb

Did You Know?

Parlous is both a synonym and a derivative of "perilous"; it came to be as an alteration of "perilous" in Middle English. ("Perilous" is derived from the Anglo-French perilleus, which ultimately comes from the Latin word for "danger": "periculum.") Both words are documented in use from at least the 14th century, but by the 17th century "parlous" had slipped from common use and was considered more or less archaic. It experienced a resurgence in popularity in the 20th century (although some critics still regarded it as an archaic affectation), and today it appears in fairly common use, often modifying "state" or "times."

Examples of parlous in a Sentence

The company is in a parlous financial situation. He talked about the parlous state of the country.
Recent Examples on the Web That leaves Britain’s Iran policy in a parlous position. The Economist, "What Britain’s release of an Iranian tanker says about its post-Brexit foreign policy," 22 Aug. 2019 Ray Dalio, the billionaire hedge fund founder, said last year that the dollar’s privileged position as the world’s currency was more obviously being threatened by the parlous state of the country’s finances than by digital tokens. Washington Post, "Trump Has a Favorite Currency, and It’s Not Bitcoin," 12 July 2019 This willingness to allow the cathedral to decay has echoes in history; the cathedral’s last major restoration occurred in the 19th century, only after Victor Hugo described its parlous state in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Vivienne Walt / Paris, Time, "Inside the Fight Over How Notre Dame Should Rise From the Ashes," 25 July 2019 Any explanation has to begin with the parlous state of the official opposition to the Conservatives now in power. Jonathan Freedland, The New York Review of Books, "Jonathan Freedland," 16 Aug. 2018 Though their governance remains parlous, at least these banks are no longer able to hide the extent of their problems. The Economist, "The humbling of India’s tycoons," 19 Apr. 2018 The stakes are especially high this year given the parlous state of the agricultural economy. Shruti Singh, Bloomberg.com, "Blindsided by China Tariffs, American Farmers Suddenly Face Huge Decision," 5 Apr. 2018 This willingness to allow the cathedral to decay has echoes in history; the cathedral’s last major restoration occurred in the 19th century, only after Victor Hugo described its parlous state in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Vivienne Walt / Paris, Time, "Inside the Fight Over How Notre Dame Should Rise From the Ashes," 25 July 2019 Any explanation has to begin with the parlous state of the official opposition to the Conservatives now in power. Jonathan Freedland, The New York Review of Books, "Jonathan Freedland," 16 Aug. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'parlous.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of parlous

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for parlous

Middle English, variant of perilous perilous (through loss of medial syllable and regular lowering and backing of e)

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Time Traveler for parlous

Time Traveler

The first known use of parlous was in the 14th century

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Cite this Entry

“Parlous.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/parlous. Accessed 21 January 2020.

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More Definitions for parlous

parlous

adjective
How to pronounce parlous (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of parlous

formal : full of danger or risk

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More from Merriam-Webster on parlous

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for parlous

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with parlous

Nglish: Translation of parlous for Spanish Speakers

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