9 Grammatical Pitfalls


[pri-kair-ee-uh s] /prɪˈkɛər i əs/
dependent on circumstances beyond one's control; uncertain; unstable; insecure:
a precarious livelihood.
dependent on the will or pleasure of another; liable to be withdrawn or lost at the will of another: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.
exposed to or involving danger; dangerous; perilous; risky:
the precarious life of an underseas diver.
having insufficient, little, or no foundation:
a precarious assumption.
Origin of precarious
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
1. unsure, unsteady. See uncertain. 2. doubtful, dubious, unreliable, undependable. 3. hazardous. 4. groundless, baseless, unfounded.
1. secure. 2. reliable. 3. safe. 4. well-founded. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for precariously
  • But it all rests precariously on an unsustainable heap of other peoples' money: the capital of capital.
  • Her brick home near the coast is surrounded by steep lush mountains where houses are perched precariously.
  • The lids rest precariously on push pins above the containers.
  • precariously placed platforms shift beneath your weight.
  • The economy is balanced precariously on a mountain of debt, much of it owed to foreigners.
  • The crane's arm is now completely outstretched and the bucket is bobbing up and down precariously.
  • If a family is already living precariously on the edge of existence, unfortunately the choice may seem rational.
  • Tents sit precariously aside building structures that could crumble at any time.
  • The grid plowed through many lots, leaving some early buildings perched precariously.
  • They also bid aggressively and generated swings, although sometimes they lived precariously.
British Dictionary definitions for precariously


liable to failure or catastrophe; insecure; perilous
(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 precariously



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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