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Etymology 1[edit]

From Latin precārius (begged for, obtained by entreaty), from prex, precis (prayer). Compare French précaire, Portuguese precário, and Spanish and Italian precario.


precarious (comparative more precarious, superlative most precarious)

  1. (comparable) Dangerously insecure or unstable; perilous.
    • 1898, Winston Churchill, chapter 4, in The Celebrity:
      One morning I had been driven to the precarious refuge afforded by the steps of the inn, after rejecting offers from the Celebrity to join him in a variety of amusements. But even here I was not free from interruption, for he was seated on a horse-block below me, playing with a fox terrier.
  2. (law) Depending on the intention of another.
Usage notes[edit]

Because the pre- element of precarious derives from prex and not the preposition prae, this term cannot — etymologically speaking — be written as *præcarious.

  • 1906, Jack London, White Fang, part I, ch III,
    Never had he been so fond of this body of his as now when his tenure of it was so precarious.
Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]

The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.
Further reading[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

pre- + carious


precarious (not comparable)

  1. (dentistry) Relating to incipient caries.