pre·​cip·​i·​tous pri-ˈsi-pə-təs How to pronounce precipitous (audio)
: very steep, perpendicular, or overhanging in rise or fall
a precipitous slope
: having precipitous sides
a precipitous gorge
: having a very steep ascent
a precipitous street
precipitously adverb
precipitousness noun
Choose the Right Synonym for precipitous

steep, abrupt, precipitous, sheer mean having an incline approaching the perpendicular.

steep implies such sharpness of pitch that ascent or descent is very difficult.

a steep hill
a steep dive

abrupt implies a sharper pitch and a sudden break in the level.

a beach with an abrupt drop-off

precipitous applies to an incline approaching the vertical.

the river winds through a precipitous gorge

sheer suggests an unbroken perpendicular expanse.

sheer cliffs that daunted the climbers

Examples of precipitous in a Sentence

There has been a precipitous decline in home sales recently. People were shocked by his precipitous fall from political power.
Recent Examples on the Web In this indispensable compendium, 29 leading experts, including many young Cuban scholars, delve deeply into this precipitous disintegration. Foreign Affairs, 20 Feb. 2024 And finally, on the morning of this event and precipitous trim, the name of the brand is announced: Cécred. Jessica Cruel, Allure, 20 Feb. 2024 But two new properties are providing worthy lodging for those who dare wish for world-class hospitality alongside their desire for exceptional guides and virgin powder on precipitous slopes. Paul Croughton, Robb Report, 18 Feb. 2024 Biden said that the early-morning hours are the best time for U.S. forces to operate and maintain the element of surprise and added that next Thursday would let enough time pass to avoid making the retaliation seem precipitous, while steering clear of Friday for reasons of cultural sensitivity. Rich Lowry, National Review, 4 Feb. 2024 Chill factor: Can Reynolds, Jackman and director Shawn Levy rescue the superhero movie from its precipitous decline? Rebecca Rubin, Variety, 3 Jan. 2024 Older agitations loom at a distance: the dissolution of a gay relationship in Tunde’s twenties, his precipitous departure from Lagos at seventeen. Julian Lucas, The New Yorker, 9 Oct. 2023 But, what is very clear is that the current precipitous decline in coronavirus variant monitoring is extremely risky. Beth Mole, Ars Technica, 21 Aug. 2023 The Long Hangover In one light, Napoli can be forgiven its precipitous decline this season. Rory Smith, New York Times, 12 Jan. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'precipitous.' 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 précipiteux, from Middle French, from Latin precipitium precipice

First Known Use

1612, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of precipitous was in 1612

Dictionary Entries Near precipitous

Cite this Entry

“Precipitous.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


pre·​cip·​i·​tous pri-ˈsip-ət-əs How to pronounce precipitous (audio)
: showing unwise and unnecessary haste : rash
a precipitous act
: steep like a precipice
a precipitous slope
precipitously adverb
precipitousness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on precipitous

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!