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 Times of polarization — exactly like today, writes Renan — are when norms are most in peril. David Montgomery, Washington Post, "Trump dramatically changed the presidency. Here’s a list of the 20 most important norms he broke — and how Biden can restore them," 10 Nov. 2020 Given the money, disenfranchisement, and gerrymandering in American politics, democracy was already in peril. Gary Younge, The New York Review of Books, "Rashly Filling the Void," 3 Nov. 2020 Now, four years into the Trump era, with commentators debating whether American democracy is in peril, the Civil War has roared back into prominence. David M. Shribman, Star Tribune, "The search for better angels," 30 Oct. 2020 The fortunes of big companies, small businesses and millions of Americans — including the Trumps — were in peril. David Enrich, New York Times, "How Trump Maneuvered His Way Out of Trouble in Chicago," 27 Oct. 2020 Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s drive to confirm Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett by Election Day is now in peril from a coronavirus outbreak among Republicans in Washington. Laura Litvan,, "McConnell’s Plan for Quick Barrett Vote Threatened by Outbreak," 5 Oct. 2020 When the captain of the ship isn't at the wheel, the boat could be in peril. Arkansas Online, "OPINION | EDITORIAL: No respecter of persons," 3 Oct. 2020 Those values are particularly important when our national leadership is in question and the health of our leaders is in peril. Clarence Page,, "Column: Trump’s COVID-19 infection an opportunity for American unity," 2 Oct. 2020 Shortly after the announcement, however, the Michigan Supreme Court put those plans in peril. Darcie Moran, Detroit Free Press, "Whitmer's order to put U.P. in Phase 4 in question after court ruling," 2 Oct. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb 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

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

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Last Updated

20 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Peril.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Nov. 2020.

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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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