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[pri-sip-i-tuh s] /prɪˈsɪp ɪ təs/
of the nature of or characterized by precipices:
a precipitous wall of rock.
extremely or impassably steep:
precipitous mountain trails.
Origin of precipitous
obsolete French
1640-50; < obsolete French précipiteux; see precipitate, -ous
Related forms
precipitously, adverb
precipitousness, noun
unprecipitous, adjective
unprecipitously, adverb
unprecipitousness, noun
Can be confused
precipitate, precipitous.
2. abrupt, sheer, perpendicular.
1, 2. flat, level. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for precipitous
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Castle Rheinstein stands in renewed youthful beauty on the edge of its precipitous cliff overlooking our noble stream.

    Legends of the Rhine Wilhelm Ruland
  • “Yes,” said Dale, preparing to descend the precipitous piece.

    The Crystal Hunters George Manville Fenn
  • They were in a small lake surrounded by lofty and precipitous icebergs.

    The Great Stone of Sardis Frank R. Stockton
  • The declivity marks the end of the precipitous gorge of the Niagara.

  • At length, the wood opened into a wide glade, from which rose a precipitous ascent, crowned with the ruins of an old castle.

    Rienzi Edward Bulwer Lytton
British Dictionary definitions for precipitous


resembling a precipice or characterized by precipices
very steep
hasty or precipitate
Derived Forms
precipitously, adverb
precipitousness, noun
Usage note
The use of precipitous to mean hasty is thought by some people to be incorrect
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 precipitous

1640s, "rash, headlong," from obsolete French precipiteux (16c.), from Vulgar Latin *praecipitosus, from praecipitare (see precipitation). Related: Precipitously; precipitousness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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