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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dependent on the will or pleasure of another; liable to be withdrawn or lost at the will of another: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
First recorded in 1640-50, precarious is from the Latin word 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. 2. doubtful, dubious, unreliable, undependable. 3. hazardous. 4. groundless, baseless, unfounded.
Antonyms
1. secure. 2. reliable. 3. safe. 4. well-founded.
Synonym Study
1. See uncertain.
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for precarious
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • 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 Jack London
  • Our agriculture is precarious, and 27 every carrot is bought by the sweat of our brow.

    Mountain Meditations L. Lind-af-Hageby
  • Such grounds are precarious, as arguments from style and plan are apt to be (Greek).

    Euthydemus Plato
  • But all this is precarious, and will change with your fortune.

British Dictionary definitions for precarious

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 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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