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pre·​cious ˈpre-shəs How to pronounce precious (audio)
: of great value or high price
precious jewels
: highly esteemed or cherished
a precious friend
: excessively refined : affected entry 2
precious manners
: great, thoroughgoing
a precious scoundrel
preciousness noun


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: very, extremely
has precious little to say

Examples of precious in a Sentence

Adjective 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 Adverb She had precious little to say. There are precious few hours of sunlight left. See More
Recent Examples on the Web
As the ball was snapped, Davis and linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr. nearly collided, costing Davis a precious step. Jeff Miller, Los Angeles Times, 20 Nov. 2023 In the last two years, olive oil prices have jumped 150% in Spain, Reuters reported, turning the staple ingredient of Mediterranean cuisine into a precious commodity. Byprarthana Prakash, Fortune Europe, 20 Nov. 2023 Max Greenfield knows how to plan a precious Friendsgiving. Kelli Bender, Peoplemag, 20 Nov. 2023 Many experts are also concerned about the fate of precious and precarious architectural gems across the mountains. Aida Alami, New York Times, 19 Nov. 2023 When currencies were devalued and stock markets plummeted, a top-quality diamond or other precious gem remained global currency. Jill Newman, Robb Report, 18 Nov. 2023 But back then, viewed globally, Willa Cather was a Great Plains regionalist, Virginia Woolf was the darling of a precious group of Londoners based in Bloomsbury, and Edith Wharton was an acolyte of the late and long out-of-fashion Henry James. Brad Leithauser, WSJ, 17 Nov. 2023 The caption came alongside family photos with her husband Jordan Kelly and precious baby Khloé-Drew. Elizabeth Ayoola, Essence, 16 Nov. 2023 Turner and the young athlete posed for a precious photo on the court, with the Charlee in full game-time uniform. Zoey Lyttle, Peoplemag, 9 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'precious.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Adjective and Adverb

Middle English, from Anglo-French precios, from Latin pretiosus, from pretium price — more at price entry 1

First Known Use


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1595, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near precious

Cite this Entry

“Precious.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


: of great value or high price
diamonds and other precious stones
: greatly loved : dear
precious memories
preciously adverb
preciousness noun


Middle English precious "of great value," from early French precios (same meaning), from Latin pretiosus (same meaning), from pretium "price, money" — related to price

More from Merriam-Webster on precious

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