Word of the Day : October 28, 2011


adjective prih-SIP-uh-tut


1 : falling, flowing, or rushing with steep descent b: precipitous, steep

2 : exhibiting violent or unwise speed

Did You Know?

Many people, including usage commentators, are insistent about keeping the adjectives "precipitate" and "precipitous" distinct. "Precipitate," they say, means "headlong" or "impetuous"; "precipitous" means only "steep." And, indeed, "precipitate" is used mostly in the "headlong" sense, whereas "precipitous" usually means "steep." But one shouldn't be too hasty about insisting on the distinction. The truth is that "precipitate" and "precipitous" have had a tendency to overlap for centuries. Lexicographer Samuel Johnson, in his dictionary of 1755, defined "precipitate" as "steeply falling," "headlong," and "hasty," while "precipitous" was "headlong; steep," and "hasty." Noah Webster's 1828 dictionary included much the same definitions. The words' etymologies overlap as well. Both ultimately come from Latin "praeceps," which means "headlong."


Our precipitate decision to invest in the company proved unwise.

"'The South Korean government recognises that a precipitate change in the North would present it with immense problems,' says Crisis Group's Asia Program Director, Robert Templer." -- From an article in the State News Service, July 14, 2011

Word Family Quiz

What relative of "precipitate" can refer to a hazardous situation or a steep or overhanging place? The answer is ...


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