par·​lous | \ ˈpär-ləs How to pronounce parlous (audio) \

Definition of parlous

1 obsolete : dangerously shrewd or cunning
2 : full of danger or risk

Other Words from parlous

parlously adverb

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Parlous is both a synonym and a derivative of "perilous"; it came to be as an alteration of "perilous" in Middle English. ("Perilous" is derived from the Anglo-French perilleus, which ultimately comes from the Latin word for "danger": "periculum.") Both words are documented in use from at least the 14th century, but by the 17th century "parlous" had slipped from common use and was considered more or less archaic. It experienced a resurgence in popularity in the 20th century (although some critics still regarded it as an archaic affectation), and today it appears in fairly common use, often modifying "state" or "times."

Examples of parlous in a Sentence

The company is in a parlous financial situation. He talked about the parlous state of the country.
Recent Examples on the Web The state of American diplomacy was parlous, as the Nazis established a firm and apparently permanent foothold in most of Western Europe. Ronald C. Rosbottom, WSJ, 15 Oct. 2021 So, given its parlous financial state, how will the company pay for it? David Meyer, Fortune, 6 Oct. 2021 As with so many mid-tier clubs in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, Sampdoria’s finances are parlous. New York Times, 16 July 2021 To the rest of the world, however, the state of Indian democracy looks increasingly parlous. Sadanand Dhume, WSJ, 15 Apr. 2021 In trouble is, for a kid, a parlous state, fraught with terror. Kyle Smith, National Review, 9 Mar. 2021 One day, while walking the dog, Joel weighed in on the parlous state of the federal minimum wage. Belinda Luscombe, Time, 19 Feb. 2021 The parents have been forced, by uncertain but potentially parlous fetal test results, to abort their first pregnancy. Claire Messud, Harpers Magazine, 5 Jan. 2021 Reed College was in a parlous financial position, and public sentiment on homosexuality ran the gamut from intolerant to murderous. Aaron Timms, The New Republic, 4 Dec. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'parlous.' 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 parlous

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for parlous

Middle English, variant of perilous perilous (through loss of medial syllable and regular lowering and backing of e)

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Time Traveler for parlous

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The first known use of parlous was in the 14th century

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Last Updated

23 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Parlous.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Dec. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of parlous

: full of danger or risk : perilous

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Nglish: Translation of parlous for Spanish Speakers


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