per·​il | \ ˈper-əl How to pronounce peril (audio) , ˈpe-rəl \

Definition of peril

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : exposure to the risk of being injured, destroyed, or lost : danger fire put the city in peril
2 : something that imperils or endangers : risk lessen the perils of the streets


per·​il | \ ˈper-əl How to pronounce peril (audio) , ˈpe-rəl \
periled also perilled; periling also perilling

Definition of peril (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to expose to danger

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Examples of peril in a Sentence

Noun Just last week he issued a statement encouraging all Iraqis to participate in the election scheduled for January, and he called on the Iraqi government to start registering voters. The powers that be in Iraq ignore him at their peril. — Johanna McGeary, Time, 25 Oct. 2004 One lesson of both the law-school and the Paulin controversies may be the peril of making free-speech judgments at Internet speed. — Jeffrey Toobin, New Yorker, 27 Jan. 2003 The old man rose and towered over Cameron, and then plunged down upon him, and clutched at his throat with terrible stifling hands. The harsh contact, the pain awakened Cameron to his peril before it was too late. — Zane Grey, Desert Gold, 1913 People are unaware of the peril these miners face each day. She described global warming as “a growing peril.” Verb … she did more harm than all Frederick's diplomacy could repair, and perilled her chance of her inheritance like a giddy heedless creature as she was. — William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair, 1848 a tribute to the men and women who, as firefighters, peril their lives daily
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Suddenly, a rotation in peril gained fresh and energized legs. Bryce Miller Columnist, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Column: Yu Darvish surprised by trade, excited about Padres staff," 31 Dec. 2020 We are told again and again that American democracy is in peril and may even be on its deathbed. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, "What We Get Wrong About America’s Crisis of Democracy," 27 Dec. 2020 The worst case is needing to overplay Khudobin because the Stars’ playoff position is in peril. Matthew Defranks, Dallas News, "Ready or not, Jake Oettinger gets introduced to the NHL this season. How will the Stars’ rookie goalie handle it?," 24 Dec. 2020 Of the superpowers in peril, only Manchester United fell by the wayside, and even that felt like a special case. Rory Smith, New York Times, "The Champions League’s New Twist: Injury Roulette," 11 Dec. 2020 There’s some peril in that because the Suns had nothing to lose and many of their opponents had nothing to gain. Kent Somers, The Arizona Republic, "Phoenix Suns' interest in Chris Paul should be real, and realistic," 12 Nov. 2020 Most insurers will pay for up to two weeks of additional living expenses, such as food and lodging, when policyholders are forced by a civil authority to evacuate their homes because of a covered peril, such as a fire. Kathleen Pender,, "New California law will beef up insurance coverage for wildfire and other major disasters," 24 Oct. 2020 Jansen nearly pitched the Dodgers into peril against the Padres in the NLDS – and then found his rhythm in time to close out a pair of NLCS victories. Gabe Lacques, USA TODAY, "Rays-Dodgers World Series: Preview, schedule and why L.A. holds a slight edge," 20 Oct. 2020 The city is now fighting a directive from that office to repay millions of dollars, arguing, in part, that such a move would plunge Youngstown into fiscal peril. Aaron Gilbreath, Longreads, "The Can That Was Supposed to Help Save a City," 10 Aug. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb November's warm gloom brought unusual blooms and peril to Twin Cities lakes and waterways. Rochelle Olson, Star Tribune, "Late-blooming problem as Minneapolis issues warning about algae toxins in lakes," 26 Nov. 2020 The bulwarks of a literary canon are usually about big ideas like love and war, crime and punishment, the nature of art, or the promise—and peril—of human ambition. Danny Heitman, WSJ, "The Poetry of the Prosaic," 2 Oct. 2020 More inexperienced skiers on the trails could lead to peril. Cara Korte, CBS News, "Colorado business owners adapt to COVID realities, prepare for future," 24 Sep. 2020 Communities along the coast have long dealt with crumbling cliffs for their danger to life and peril to property. Teri Figueroa, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Family sues state, city, others over Encinitas bluff collapse that killed three," 26 Aug. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'peril.' 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 peril


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1567, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for peril


Middle English, borrowed from Anglo-French, going back to Latin perīculum "test, trial, risk, danger," going back to *perei-tlom, from *perei- (of uncertain origin) + *-tlom, instrumental suffix (going back to Indo-European)

Note: Latin perīculum has traditionally been explained as a derivative from a proposed Indo-European verbal base *per- "test, risk," seen also in perītus "practiced, experienced," experior, experīrī "to put to the test, attempt, have experience of, undergo" (see experience entry 1) and opperior, opperīrī "to wait, wait for"; these have been compared with Greek peîra "trial, attempt, experience," peiráomai, peirâsthai "to make a trial of, attempt," émpeiros "experienced" (see empiric)—going back to *per-i̯a—and more tentatively with Germanic *fērō "pursuit, danger" (see fear entry 2). This *per- "test, risk" is then taken further as a semantic derivative of *per- "cross, pass" (see fare entry 1). Alternatively, if the formative -i- represents the Indo-European present-tense suffix *-ei̯-/-i-, Latin peri-/perī- in these words fits naturally with Indo-European *perh3-/pr̥h3- "bring forth, give rise to, produce" (if taken as a middle verb "give rise to within oneself, experience, undergo"), with *pr̥h3-i- yielding Latin pariō, parere "to give birth to" (see parturient entry 1) and *perh3-ei̯- yielding the per-ī- of perīculum, etc. It is unclear if the base of experior and opperior contains par- or per-, as the simplex verb is not attested. (Cf. Michiel de Vaan, "PIE i-presents, s-presents, and their reflexes in Latin," Glotta, Band 87 [2011], pp. 23-36.)


derivative of peril entry 1

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Time Traveler for peril

Time Traveler

The first known use of peril was in the 13th century

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Last Updated

13 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Peril.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for peril


How to pronounce peril (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of peril

somewhat formal + literary
: the possibility that you will be hurt or killed or that something unpleasant or bad will happen
: something that is likely to cause injury, pain, harm, or loss


per·​il | \ ˈper-əl How to pronounce peril (audio) \

Kids Definition of peril

1 : the state of being in great danger The storm put our ship in peril.
2 : a cause or source of danger the perils of skydiving


per·​il | \ ˈper-əl How to pronounce peril (audio) \

Legal Definition of peril

1 : exposure to the risk of death, destruction, or loss
2 : the cause of a loss (as of property) insured their home against fire, floods, and other perils — compare risk

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