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

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,, "Blindsided by China Tariffs, American Farmers Suddenly Face Huge Decision," 5 Apr. 2018 For women of color, especially black women, the situation is even more parlous. Parul Sehgal, New York Times, "Three Views of the Crisis in Women’s Health," 13 Mar. 2018 The parlous state of London’s prime central market, which began to decline in 2015, likely also played a role in this decision. Ruth Bloomfield, WSJ, "A Onetime London Hospital Undergoes a Luxury Rehab," 26 Oct. 2017 To complicate matters, at the film’s center the Dardennes place an amateur detective who doesn’t naturally belong to this parlous world. Christian Lorentzen, New Republic, "The Dardenne Brothers’ Guilty Conscience," 4 Sep. 2017 To be sure, there is much room for debate as to the current state of American institutions: My particular hobby-horses here are the growing power of the presidency and the courts relative to Congress, and the parlous state of civic culture. Max Bloom, National Review, "Democracy Is Not a Poll," 20 July 2017 WHO is in a parlous state WHO is no longer the sole leader in global health. Joshua Busby, Washington Post, "The World Health Organization just picked a new leader. These are the challenges he faces.," 15 June 2017 Numerous commentaries from both the political left and right have expounded the parlous state of the Democratic Party. Joel Kotkin, Orange County Register, "How the Democrats can rebuild," 5 Mar. 2017

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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Dictionary Entries near parlous

parlor palm

parlor trick





parma red

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Time Traveler for parlous

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

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English Language Learners Definition of parlous

formal : full of danger or risk

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More from Merriam-Webster on parlous

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with parlous

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for parlous

Nglish: Translation of parlous for Spanish Speakers

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showing courage and determination

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