- 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- dependent on the will or pleasure of another; liable to be withdrawn or lost at the will of another: He held a precarious tenure under an arbitrary administration.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
SynonymsSee more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
Examples from the Web for precarious
But he has somehow leapt to a higher plateau during the last few years—all the more amazing given his precarious health.The Best Albums of 2014
December 13, 2014
Somebody else suggests that the evidence is precarious, coming as it does from victims who might not make confident witnesses.The Castration of Alan Turing, Britain’s Code-Breaking WWII Hero
November 29, 2014
It was a precarious life, tented on the fairgrounds with all earnings in cash.Best Career Arc Ever: From Burlesque To Bartending
September 13, 2014
The incident highlights the precarious state of Afghanistan as U.S. troops prepare to withdraw from the country.Who Assassinated a U.S. General?
August 6, 2014
Their harrowing escape to Erbil has ended in a precarious and hardscrabble existence.Church Bells Fall Silent in Mosul as Iraq’s Christians Flee
Andrew Doran, Drew Bowling
June 29, 2014
In any case, it was evident that Italian opera was a precarious enterprise.Handel
Edward J. Dent
Never had he been so fond of this body of his as now when his tenure of it was so precarious.White Fang
Our agriculture is precarious, and 27 every carrot is bought by the sweat of our brow.Mountain Meditations
Such grounds are precarious, as arguments from style and plan are apt to be (Greek).Euthydemus
But all this is precarious, and will change with your fortune.
- liable to failure or catastrophe; insecure; perilous
- archaic dependent on another's will
Word Origin and History for precarious
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.