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[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dependent on the will or pleasure of another; liable to be withdrawn or lost at the will of another: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 precariousness
  • And indeed, it hints at the precariousness of our mental stability, as well as the courage it takes to face the elements alone.
  • The rickety feel of century-old coasters meets the foot-dangling precariousness of inverted coasters.
  • The rickety feel of century-old coasters meets the foot- dangling precariousness of inverted coasters.
  • Qutb's sense of extreme moral precariousness comes to the fore in every encounter.
  • The enemies, according to the prime minister, are climate change and the precariousness of future supplies.
  • The prophet of capitalism's creative powers also understood the precariousness of the capitalist achievement.
  • Though the president escaped unhurt, the incident underlined the precariousness of the province's politics.
  • The precariousness of the untenured life, even if the work is boring and the boss no longer wants you.
  • We have not withdrawn any troops yet, underscoring the precariousness of the situation.
  • However, advocates for nursing home reforms say investors exaggerate the industry's precariousness.
British Dictionary definitions for precariousness


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 precariousness



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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