Definition of precarious
precarious was our Word of the Day on 07/01/2015. Hear the podcast!
Examples of precarious in a sentence
These states are corrupt and brutal. They are theocracies, or precarious autocracies, or secular totalitarian states: tyrannies all, deniers of freedom, republics of fear, enemies of civility and human flourishing. —Ramesh Ponnuru, National Review, 15 Oct. 2001
Such folks led a precarious existence, their homes routinely destroyed in pursuit of a scorched earth policy whenever Florence came under siege. —R. W. B. Lewis, Dante, 2001
She was the first baby he had ever held; he had thought it would be a precarious experience, shot through with fear of dropping something so precious and fragile, but no, in even the smallest infant there was an adhesive force, a something that actively fit your arms and hands, banishing the fear. —John Updike, The Afterlife, 1994
He earned a precarious livelihood by gambling.
The strong wind almost knocked him off of his precarious perch on the edge of the cliff.
Did You Know?
This little happiness is so very precarious, that it wholly depends on the will of others. Joseph Addison, in a 1711 issue of Spectator magazine, couldn't have described the oldest sense of precarious more precisely-the original meaning of the word was "depending on the will or pleasure of another." Prayers and entreaties directed at that "other" might or might not help, but what precariousness really hangs on, in the end, is prex, the Latin word for prayer. From prex came the Latin word precarius, meaning "obtained by entreaty," from whence came our own adjective precarious. Anglo-French priere, also from precarius, gave us prayer.
Origin and Etymology of precarious
Latin precarius obtained by entreaty, uncertain — more at prayer
First Known Use: 1646
Synonym Discussion of precarious
PRECARIOUS Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of precarious for English Language Learners
: not safe, strong, or steady
PRECARIOUS Defined for Kids
Definition of precarious for Students
: not safe, strong, or steady precarious balance a precarious journey
Seen and Heard
What made you want to look up precarious? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).