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 many communities, the number of guns found has more than doubled, a trend that mirrors a precipitous rise in school shootings. Steven Rich, Washington Post, 10 Oct. 2023 The cozy, nine-room Amanita Guesthouse is made up of a traditional stone house and a couple of apartments, all set in a medicinal herb garden that clings to Pelion’s precipitous slopes. Charlotte Higgins, Travel + Leisure, 9 Oct. 2023 Its sudden rise and precipitous fall have captivated Wall Street and Silicon Valley alike. Ethan M Steinberg, Fortune, 7 Nov. 2023 Fiona Hill, a former U.S. National Security Council staffer and a leading expert on Putin, has argued that the United States’ precipitous withdrawal from Afghanistan showed weakness, inducing Putin to invade. Foreign Affairs, 6 Nov. 2023 Despite the frequently chilly climate and the precipitous terrain, a multilevel terrace with a heated swimming pool and a spa are carved into the cliff’s face. Mark David, Robb Report, 31 Oct. 2023 Philadelphia’s murder rate was in steep decline this year after a precipitous rise that started in 2020. Jeremy Kohler, ProPublica, 11 Oct. 2023 And the drop at third base has been most precipitous. Evan Grant, Dallas News, 19 Sep. 2023 The business is changing at a precipitous rate, and recent studio mergers have forever altered the longtime map of Hollywood production. Pat Saperstein, Variety, 16 Oct. 2023 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 7 Dec. 2023.

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

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