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 In trouble is, for a kid, a parlous state, fraught with terror. Kyle Smith, National Review, 9 Mar. 2021 One day, while walking the dog, Joel weighed in on the parlous state of the federal minimum wage. Belinda Luscombe, Time, 19 Feb. 2021 The parents have been forced, by uncertain but potentially parlous fetal test results, to abort their first pregnancy. Claire Messud, Harpers Magazine, 5 Jan. 2021 Reed College was in a parlous financial position, and public sentiment on homosexuality ran the gamut from intolerant to murderous. Aaron Timms, The New Republic, 4 Dec. 2020 The family waited until the following Saturday to take him to a hospital — a not unusual precaution in a country where the parlous state of medical care leaves many viewing hospitals as places where people go to die. Patrick J. Mcdonnell, Los Angeles Times, 21 Nov. 2020 Movie-theater operator Cineworld is still in a parlous position. Stephen Wilmot, WSJ, 24 Sep. 2020 Yemen and Syria among them, given the parlous state of their economies and health systems, and with many people already homeless. Rosalind Mathieson,, 8 May 2020 But what poses as unsentimental truth telling isn’t cynical enough about the parlous state of our privacy. Jonathan Zittrain, The Atlantic, 7 Feb. 2020

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.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Jun. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of parlous

formal : full of danger or risk

More from Merriam-Webster on parlous

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for parlous

Nglish: Translation of parlous for Spanish Speakers


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