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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.
    Synonyms: unsteady, rickety, shaky, tottering, unsafe, unstable, wobbly
    • 1897 December (indicated as 1898), Winston Churchill, chapter IV, in The Celebrity: An Episode, New York, N.Y.: The Macmillan Company; London: Macmillan & Co., Ltd., →OCLC:
      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.
    • 1906 May–October, Jack London, chapter III, in White Fang, New York, N.Y.: The Macmillan Company; London: Macmillan & Co., published October 1906, →OCLC, part 1 (The Wild):
      Never had he been so fond of this body of his as now when his tenure of it was so precarious.
    • 2022 November 2, Paul Bigland, “New trains, old trains, and splendid scenery”, in RAIL, number 969, page 57:
      One can't escape the huge nuclear facility at Sellafield (supplier of much of the line's remaining freight traffic), or miss the wild shingle beaches with exposed and precarious bungalows sandwiched between the railway and the shore at Braystones.
  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.

Derived terms[edit]
Related terms[edit]
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.
Further reading[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

pre- +‎ carious


precarious (not comparable)

  1. (dentistry) Relating to incipient caries.