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precarious

[pri-kair-ee-uh s] /prɪˈkɛər i əs/
adjective
1.
dependent on circumstances beyond one's control; uncertain; unstable; insecure:
a precarious livelihood.
2.
dependent on the will or pleasure of another; liable to be withdrawn or lost at the will of another:
He held a precarious tenure under an arbitrary administration.
3.
exposed to or involving danger; dangerous; perilous; risky:
the precarious life of an underseas diver.
4.
having insufficient, little, or no foundation:
a precarious assumption.
Origin
1640-1650
1640-50; < Latin precārius obtained by entreaty or mere favor, hence uncertain. See prayer1
Related forms
precariously, adverb
precariousness, noun
superprecarious, adjective
superprecariously, adverb
superprecariousness, noun
unprecarious, adjective
unprecariously, adverb
unprecariousness, noun
Synonyms
1. unsure, unsteady. See uncertain. 2. doubtful, dubious, unreliable, undependable. 3. hazardous. 4. groundless, baseless, unfounded.
Antonyms
1. secure. 2. reliable. 3. safe. 4. well-founded.
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for precarious
  • By focusing on the nation's precarious origins, the poem bolstered nationalism at a time when it was sorely needed.
  • When told of the boys' precarious position, they wanted to help — but adopting a teenage war orphan seemed like a huge step.
  • It is clear that the precarious illusion will soon unravel.
  • His loyalty to the rest of the crew wavered from fierce to precarious.
  • The narrator's life is suffused with the fear that his father will fall from his precarious perch of respectability.
  • With it came efforts to downplay the dangers of shoddily reconstructing a compact city on such precarious ground.
  • With careers having become so much more precarious, the temerity of originality is all the more impressive.
  • Still, if the island's health depends on the fossa's brutal care, then that is a precarious balance indeed.
  • It seems a bit precarious, and it elicits polite skepticism from others in the industry.
  • He holds up a digital print and points to a smudge in one of the precarious perches.
British Dictionary definitions for precarious

precarious

/prɪˈkɛərɪəs/
adjective
1.
liable to failure or catastrophe; insecure; perilous
2.
(archaic) dependent on another's will
Derived Forms
precariously, adverb
precariousness, noun
Word Origin
C17: from Latin precārius obtained by begging (hence, dependent on another's will), from prexprayer1
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for precarious
adj.

1640s, a legal word, "held through the favor of another," from Latin precarius "obtained by asking or praying," from prex (genitive precis) "entreaty, prayer" (see pray). Notion of "dependent on the will of another" led to extended sense "risky, dangerous, uncertain" (1680s). "No word is more unskillfully used than this with its derivatives. It is used for uncertain in all its senses; but it only means uncertain, as dependent on others ..." [Johnson]. Related: Precariously; precariousness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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