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

Essential Meaning of precious

1 : rare and worth a lot of money diamonds and other precious stones precious jewels/jewelry
2 : very valuable or important : too valuable or important to be wasted or used carelessly We can save precious time by taking this shortcut. They were able to be together for only a few precious hours/days. precious resources
3 : greatly loved, valued, or important precious memories the family's most precious moments a very precious [=dear] friend

Full 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 entry 2 precious manners
4 : great, thoroughgoing a precious scoundrel



Definition of precious (Entry 2 of 2)

: very, extremely has precious little to say

Other Words from precious


preciousness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for precious

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adjective

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Environmentalists say this removes precious water that should nourish the ecosystem. Amy Hubbard, Los Angeles Times, 22 Jan. 2022 Sand is a precious and disappearing commodity in the San Diego region and along much of the California coast. Michael Smolens Columnist, San Diego Union-Tribune, 21 Jan. 2022 Democrats burned precious political capital simply to poison the well for acceptance of the upcoming midterm elections and lay the foundation for a perilous assault on core traditions of American governance. The Editors, National Review, 21 Jan. 2022 At this rate, not only will precious development gains be lost, but the current humanitarian crisis could kill far more Afghans than the past 20 years of war. David Miliband, CNN, 20 Jan. 2022 But what about something even more precious than computer hardware? Mark Sparrow, Forbes, 20 Jan. 2022 That’s why moms are choosing to spend their nights—their precious moments of child-free time before the next endless day begins—screaming into the darkness. Melinda Wenner Moyer, The Atlantic, 20 Jan. 2022 The kurgan was filled with riches, including what was left of a garment decorated with semiprecious stones and gold, precious metal cups, weapons and tools. NBC News, 19 Jan. 2022 Once those first Lasso machines are live and full of precious glass and plastic bits, their owners are meant to schedule pickups from a smartphone app. Washington Post, 18 Jan. 2022

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 entry 1

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Time Traveler for precious

Time Traveler

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

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Dictionary Entries Near precious



precious coral

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Statistics for precious

Last Updated

25 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Precious.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for precious


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

More from Merriam-Webster on precious

Nglish: Translation of precious for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of precious for Arabic Speakers


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