per·​il | \ ˈper-əl How to pronounce peril (audio) , ˈpe-rəl \

Definition of peril

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : exposure to the risk of being injured, destroyed, or lost : danger fire put the city in peril
2 : something that imperils or endangers : risk lessen the perils of the streets


per·​il | \ ˈper-əl How to pronounce peril (audio) , ˈpe-rəl \
periled also perilled; periling also perilling

Definition of peril (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to expose to danger

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Examples of peril in a Sentence

Noun Just last week he issued a statement encouraging all Iraqis to participate in the election scheduled for January, and he called on the Iraqi government to start registering voters. The powers that be in Iraq ignore him at their peril. — Johanna McGeary, Time, 25 Oct. 2004 One lesson of both the law-school and the Paulin controversies may be the peril of making free-speech judgments at Internet speed. — Jeffrey Toobin, New Yorker, 27 Jan. 2003 The old man rose and towered over Cameron, and then plunged down upon him, and clutched at his throat with terrible stifling hands. The harsh contact, the pain awakened Cameron to his peril before it was too late. — Zane Grey, Desert Gold, 1913 People are unaware of the peril these miners face each day. She described global warming as “a growing peril.” Verb … she did more harm than all Frederick's diplomacy could repair, and perilled her chance of her inheritance like a giddy heedless creature as she was. — William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair, 1848 a tribute to the men and women who, as firefighters, peril their lives daily
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun More than 18 months into the pandemic, thorny economic challenges that touch voters directly represent political peril for a president with sagging public approval ratings. Compiled Democrat-gazette Staff From Wire Reports, Arkansas Online, 14 Oct. 2021 More than 18 months into the pandemic, thorny economic challenges that directly touch voters represent political peril for a president with sagging public approval ratings. David J. Lynch And Rachel Siegel, Anchorage Daily News, 14 Oct. 2021 But if all developing countries followed the path of the west, the planet would be in grave peril. Michael Sheldrick, Forbes, 7 Oct. 2021 The experiment in Nationals Park did not come without peril., 1 Oct. 2021 Still, the plot feels somewhat underdeveloped, with peril evident but its cause murky. Dennis Harvey, Variety, 29 Sep. 2021 Comparisons between Germany and neighboring countries like Belgium and France, or with the United States, have not offered clear evidence that the Autobahn presents a greater peril, according to the motor club. Christiaan Hetzner, Fortune, 18 Sep. 2021 Earthshot encourages all of us charge forward in the coming decade, working together to find innovative solutions to our global environmental peril. Simon Perry,, 17 Sep. 2021 The careful dance of morals and personal peril involved in booster banditry is far more complicated than the obvious ethical dumpster fire of taking a first dose from an essential worker or a cancer patient. Rachel Gutman, The Atlantic, 13 Sep. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb November's warm gloom brought unusual blooms and peril to Twin Cities lakes and waterways. Rochelle Olson, Star Tribune, 26 Nov. 2020 The bulwarks of a literary canon are usually about big ideas like love and war, crime and punishment, the nature of art, or the promise—and peril—of human ambition. Danny Heitman, WSJ, 2 Oct. 2020 More inexperienced skiers on the trails could lead to peril. Cara Korte, CBS News, 24 Sep. 2020 Communities along the coast have long dealt with crumbling cliffs for their danger to life and peril to property. Teri Figueroa, San Diego Union-Tribune, 26 Aug. 2020

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


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1567, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for peril


Middle English, borrowed from Anglo-French, going back to Latin perīculum "test, trial, risk, danger," going back to *perei-tlom, from *perei- (of uncertain origin) + *-tlom, instrumental suffix (going back to Indo-European)

Note: Latin perīculum has traditionally been explained as a derivative from a proposed Indo-European verbal base *per- "test, risk," seen also in perītus "practiced, experienced," experior, experīrī "to put to the test, attempt, have experience of, undergo" (see experience entry 1) and opperior, opperīrī "to wait, wait for"; these have been compared with Greek peîra "trial, attempt, experience," peiráomai, peirâsthai "to make a trial of, attempt," émpeiros "experienced" (see empiric)—going back to *per-i̯a—and more tentatively with Germanic *fērō "pursuit, danger" (see fear entry 2). This *per- "test, risk" is then taken further as a semantic derivative of *per- "cross, pass" (see fare entry 1). Alternatively, if the formative -i- represents the Indo-European present-tense suffix *-ei̯-/-i-, Latin peri-/perī- in these words fits naturally with Indo-European *perh3-/pr̥h3- "bring forth, give rise to, produce" (if taken as a middle verb "give rise to within oneself, experience, undergo"), with *pr̥h3-i- yielding Latin pariō, parere "to give birth to" (see parturient entry 1) and *perh3-ei̯- yielding the per-ī- of perīculum, etc. It is unclear if the base of experior and opperior contains par- or per-, as the simplex verb is not attested. (Cf. Michiel de Vaan, "PIE i-presents, s-presents, and their reflexes in Latin," Glotta, Band 87 [2011], pp. 23-36.)


derivative of peril entry 1

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The first known use of peril was in the 13th century

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Last Updated

16 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Peril.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for peril



English Language Learners Definition of peril

: the possibility that you will be hurt or killed or that something unpleasant or bad will happen : danger
: something that is likely to cause injury, pain, harm, or loss : danger


per·​il | \ ˈper-əl How to pronounce peril (audio) \

Kids Definition of peril

1 : the state of being in great danger The storm put our ship in peril.
2 : a cause or source of danger the perils of skydiving


per·​il | \ ˈper-əl How to pronounce peril (audio) \

Legal Definition of peril

1 : exposure to the risk of death, destruction, or loss
2 : the cause of a loss (as of property) insured their home against fire, floods, and other perils — compare risk

More from Merriam-Webster on peril

Nglish: Translation of peril for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of peril for Arabic Speakers


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