pre·​cious | \ ˈpre-shəs How to pronounce precious (audio) \

Definition of precious

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : of great value or high price precious jewels
2 : highly esteemed or cherished a precious friend
3 : excessively refined : affected precious manners
4 : great, thoroughgoing a precious scoundrel



Definition of precious (Entry 2 of 2)

: very, extremely has precious little to say

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Other Words from precious


preciousness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for precious

Synonyms: Adjective

big-ticket, costly, dear, expensive, extravagant, high, high-end, high-ticket, premium, priceless, pricey (also pricy), spendy [chiefly Northwest], ultraexpensive, valuable

Antonyms: Adjective

cheap, inexpensive

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Examples of precious in a Sentence


That so many of China's cleverest and most creative men and women had to sell their books and their most precious carvings and family seals to keep themselves alive, while corpulent nationalists and their friends dined well in local banquet halls, gave them some right to schadenfreude. — Simon Winchester, The Man Who Loved China, 2008 Of course, the war pronounces on us all. Some precious glee we seek is absent, the season less substantial, less likeable. — Richard Ford, Wall Street Journal, 14-15 June 2008 The world is, as usual, a frightening place to enter for all save the precious few impaired by inherited security. — David Mamet, True and False, 1997 … and, though to him those precious moments at the end of each day had symbolized the realization of his every hope, to her they had meant not a goddamn thing. — Philip Roth, American Pastoral, 1997 diamonds and other precious stones We can save precious time by taking this shortcut. They were able to be together for only a few precious hours. the family's most precious moments


She had precious little to say. There are precious few hours of sunlight left.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

The biographical record on Shakespeare is a sketchy thing, of course, so precious little is known about this retirement period. Mark Dawidziak,, "Branagh sublime as Shakespeare in ‘All is True’," 7 June 2019 To be sure, there’s precious little to mourn in the death of the kind of ogling soft-core wish-fulfillment fantasies that male directors foisted on viewers for nearly a century. Ann Hornaday, Washington Post, "Sex is disappearing from the big screen, and it’s making movies less pleasurable," 7 June 2019 But as so many competent GM’s discover, putting on the finishing touches is a talent shared by precious few. Sam Donnellon,, "Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher heads into NHL draft and free agency with something to prove | Sam Donnellon," 6 June 2019 Marchionne, who led the Italian American carmaker until his death last year, believed that carmakers needed to get bigger in order to cut costs and stop wasting precious cash. Charles Riley, CNN, "Fiat Chrysler lost Renault. It needs to find another partner fast," 6 June 2019 But in many workplaces, security experts say, police often lack quick access to cards or codes — a situation that could cost them precious minutes in a mass shooting. Ben Finley And Denise Lavoie,, "Locked electronic doors slowed police response in Virginia Beach mass shooting," 5 June 2019 But in many workplaces, security experts say, police often lack quick access to cards or codes — a situation that could cost them precious minutes in a mass shooting. Denise Lavoie, Twin Cities, "Police were thwarted by electronic doors during the Virginia Beach shooting," 5 June 2019 Last, but not least, her precious dachshund, Mindy., "Deaths in Central Florida: 6/4," 4 June 2019 At one point, Hannah and her date Jed apparently threw some nuggets off the roof after making a wish on them, and fans were not pleased about such cavalier behavior around the precious snack. Kara Nesvig, Teen Vogue, ""The Bachelorette" Has an Obsession With Chicken Nuggets," 28 May 2019

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


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1595, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for precious

Adjective and Adverb

Middle English, from Anglo-French precios, from Latin pretiosus, from pretium price — more at price

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Statistics for precious

Last Updated

12 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for precious

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

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More Definitions for precious



English Language Learners Definition of precious

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: rare and worth a lot of money
: very valuable or important : too valuable or important to be wasted or used carelessly
: greatly loved, valued, or important



English Language Learners Definition of precious (Entry 2 of 2)

: very or extremely


pre·​cious | \ ˈpre-shəs How to pronounce precious (audio) \

Kids Definition of precious

1 : very valuable Diamonds and emeralds are precious stones.
2 : greatly loved or valued a precious friend precious memories

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More from Merriam-Webster on precious

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for precious

Spanish Central: Translation of precious

Nglish: Translation of precious for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of precious for Arabic Speakers

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