per·il | \ˈper-əl, 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, 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


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.”


… 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

So policies intended to deter arrivals are likely to do little more than worsen the perils for migrants. New York Times, "In U.S. and Europe, Migration Conflict Points to Deeper Political Problems," 29 June 2018 Even trying to serve your country brings its own peril for trans people. S. D. Chrismon, The Root, "‘It Gets Better’: The Lie We Tell LGBTQ Youths," 15 June 2018 If American diplomats insist on treating North Korea more or less like any other state, the coming negotiations will bring hapless results no different from those of the past, even as the peril for the U.S. and its allies grows ever greater. Nicholas Eberstadt, WSJ, "With Kim Jong Un, There’s No ‘Win-Win’," 23 May 2018 Thus, activists are working with faith leaders to share the perils for minors, Persad said. Susan Miller, USA TODAY, "'Being LGBTQ is not an illness': Record number of states banning conversion therapy," 17 Apr. 2018 All of which is to say: The politics of mass shootings have real perils for progressives. Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, "On Guns, Liberals Are Flirting With the Politics of Fear. That’s Scary.," 22 Feb. 2018 Even on a state-by-state basis, any expansion of legal sports betting poses new hope and new peril for daily fantasy sports. Ira Boudway,, "If Supreme Court legalizes sports betting in N.J., FanDuel and DraftKings will be rocked," 17 Jan. 2018 Those who weren’t paying attention did so at their peril. Adam Lashinsky, Fortune, "Why Tencent and Alibaba Matter, Worldwide," 21 June 2018 Los Angeles Times Ken Ludwig specializes both in placing his characters in weird, outlandish situations and in propelling them out of peril at breakneck speed. Timesoc,, "TimesOC: O.C. supervisors oppose needle exchange plan," 13 June 2018

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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Phrases Related to peril

at one's own peril

at one's peril

Statistics for peril

Last Updated

10 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for peril

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

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More Definitions for peril



English Language Learners Definition of peril

: 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 \

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 \

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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Comments on peril

What made you want to look up peril? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to reject or criticize sharply

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