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[pres-uh-pis] /ˈprɛs ə pɪs/
a cliff with a vertical, nearly vertical, or overhanging face.
a situation of great peril:
on the precipice of war.
Origin of precipice
1590-1600; < Middle French < Latin praecipitium steep place, equivalent to praecipit- (stem of praeceps) steep, headlong (prae- pre- + -cipit-, combining form of caput head; see caput) + -ium -ium
Related forms
precipiced, adjective
unprecipiced, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for precipice
  • In some places it cuts across the face of a precipice.
  • With a concrete wall on one side and a precipice on the other, there was nowhere to escape and they were crushed.
  • You guys are on the precipice of insanity.
  • On every hand were precipices and a wild confusion of rocks and trees.
  • Some days go well, some not so well, but one needn't hurtle from precipice to chasm.
  • Readers, by this time hanging on the speaker's every word, are left mercilessly on the precipice.
  • When the group attempts to escape, they reach a critical precipice.
  • Anyone who has ever felt squeamish standing on the edge of a precipice should know this.
  • The epidemic rattles both those who study social trends and parents who fear the country is at a cultural precipice.
  • He is about to step off of a precipice, taking a leap of faith into the unknown.
British Dictionary definitions for precipice


  1. the steep sheer face of a cliff or crag
  2. the cliff or crag itself
a precarious situation
Derived Forms
precipiced, adjective
Word Origin
C16: from Latin praecipitium steep place, from praeceps headlong
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for precipice

"steep face of rock," 1630s, from Middle French précipice, from Latin praecipitium "a steep place," literally "a fall or leap," from praeceps (genitive praecipitis) "steep, headlong, headfirst," from prae "before, forth" (see pre-) + caput "head" (see head (n.)). Earlier in English as a verb (1590s) meaning "fall to great depth."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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