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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dependent on the will or pleasure of another; liable to be withdrawn or lost at the will of another: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 of precarious
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. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for precariousness
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Its precariousness had been beguiled by the uncommon forbearance with which she was treated by her savage protector.

    Caleb Williams William Godwin
  • If I needed anything to perfect the precariousness of my steering, it was just that.

    What Is Man? And Other Stories Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
  • In all hypotheses as to the more remote destiny of literature, we can but be struck by the precariousness of its existence.

  • Consider for a moment the precariousness of the life of an insect!

    Jungle Folk Douglas Dewar
  • As much perhaps from the precariousness of their situation as from a reckless daring, they could not brook the least delay.

    The Felon's Track Michael Doheny
  • He felt, with a sense of great weakness, the precariousness of his job.

    Turns about Town Robert Cortes Holliday
  • A flash of lightning revealed the precariousness of the situation.

    Prairie Flowers James B. Hendryx
  • The new ruler was aware of the precariousness of his position.

British Dictionary definitions for precariousness

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 precariousness

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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