prec·​i·​pice ˈpre-s(ə-)pəs How to pronounce precipice (audio)
: a very steep or overhanging place
: a hazardous situation
broadly : brink

Examples of precipice in a Sentence

Twenty years ago, it seemed unlikely that black and white South Africans could avoid a cataclysmic struggle. How did we manage to turn back from the precipice and join one another in the long walk to a nonracial democracy? F. W. De Klerk, Time, 18 Apr. 2005
These are the brave, friendly guys and gals who flip, twist, spin and somersault themselves backward into the sky and somehow land on a horrifyingly steep precipice without rearranging their rib cages or breaking their faces. Curry Kirkpatrick, Newsweek, 21 Feb. 1994
… the helpless Cambodians were bused from the safety of a refugee camp to an outcropping along the border several hundred miles to the northeast, where they were forced over the precipice into a wild and inaccessible part of Cambodia from which it would be almost impossible to return to Thailand. Barbara Crossette, New York Times Book Review, 2 Aug. 1987
He stood on the edge of the precipice. scaled the steep precipice with the ease of an experienced climber
Recent Examples on the Web On the precipice For all their importance to the smooth running of nature’s threshing machine, vultures themselves are being mowed under at an alarming rate. Natalie Angier, New York Times, 12 Nov. 2023 In addition to groundwater depletion, rising insurance costs and extreme heat, the U.N. report highlights melting glaciers, ecosystem collapse and space debris as systems nearing precipices. Hayley Smith, Los Angeles Times, 26 Oct. 2023 Harpers Ferry, West Virginia At the precipice of the 4.5-mile Maryland Heights Overlook Trail, this small 19th century town is downright dreamy. Southern Living Editors, Southern Living, 17 Oct. 2023 One of the world’s largest colonies nests at the east side of Bonaventure Island, and our hike ended at a high precipice with birds settled like snowflakes on every ledge, speckling the dark, rocky soil in their thousands. Nina Caplan, Travel + Leisure, 28 Oct. 2023 President Zelenskyy’s country is on the precipice of annexation. Stephen Rodrick, Variety, 13 Sep. 2023 Internally, acute food insecurity has spiked, with 6 million people on the precipice of famine, according to relief organizations operating inside Sudan. Howard Lafranchi, The Christian Science Monitor, 3 Oct. 2023 Oh, and the US is yet again on the precipice of another government shutdown, an event that could result in a downgrade to its credit rating and lead to volatility in US stocks. Anna Cooban, CNN, 28 Sep. 2023 Now, on the precipice of what may become the biggest auto strike in years, that green troika is threatening to split apart, imperiling the future of the President’s climate agenda, and his reelection chances. Time, 14 Sep. 2023 See More

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

Word History


French, from Middle French, from Latin praecipitium, from praecipit-, praeceps headlong, from prae- + caput head — more at head

First Known Use

1613, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of precipice was in 1613

Dictionary Entries Near precipice

Cite this Entry

“Precipice.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


prec·​i·​pice ˈpres-(ə-)pəs How to pronounce precipice (audio)
: a very steep and high face of a rock or mountain

More from Merriam-Webster on precipice

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