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See also: Precious


Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English precious, borrowed from Old French precios (valuable, costly, precious, beloved, also affected, finical), from Latin pretiōsus (of great value, costly, dear, precious), from pretium (value, price); see price.


  • IPA(key): /ˈpɹɛʃ.əs/
  • (file)
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɛʃəs


precious (comparative more precious, superlative most precious)

  1. Of high value or worth.
    • 2013 August 16, Polly Toynbee, “Britain's booming birthrate”, in The Guardian Weekly, volume 189, number 10, page 21:
      People are a good thing, the most precious resource in a rich economy, so the progressive-minded feel. Only misanthropists disagree or the dottier Malthusians who send green-ink tweets deploring any state assistance for child-rearing.
    The crown had many precious gemstones.   This building work needs site access, and tell the city council that I don't care about a few lorry tyre ruts across their precious grass verge.
  2. Regarded with love or tenderness.
    My precious daughter is to marry.
  3. (derogatory) Treated with too much reverence.
    He spent hours painting the eyes of the portrait, which his fellow artists regarded as a bit precious.
  4. (informal, followed by about) Extremely protective or strict (about something).
    Writers are often very precious about their work.
    • 2009 September 16, Charlie Sorrel, “Chef’s Travel Bag: A Kitchen On Your Back”, in Wired[1], San Francisco, C.A.: Condé Nast Publications, →ISSN, →OCLC, archived from the original on 2023-03-24:
      Pro chefs can be very precious about their kit. Watch a bartender trying to borrow a simple, cheap fruit-knife from the kitchen and you'll see what I mean.
    • 2016 February 4, Spencer Kornhaber, quoting Jeremy Greenspan, “The Postindustrial Electronic Bar-Fly Blues”, in The Atlantic[2], Washington, D.C.: The Atlantic Monthly Group, →ISSN, →OCLC, archived from the original on 2022-10-02:
      Well, I didn't realize it until almost after the fact. I wrote all these songs very quickly; I did a whole lot of material and wasn't too precious about it. The lyric writing was done in much the same way. I wrote stuff and sang it, and the demos stuck, which is different from what I've done before, when I edited it.
    • 2016 November 20, Katie Walsh, “Why are Irish people so precious about Irishness?”, in The Irish Times[3], Dublin: Irish Times Trust, →ISSN, →OCLC, archived from the original on 2023-04-01:
      Hearing what a struggle it was for her, I began to understand why some people are so precious about being Irish. Being second-generation Irish, she had the option to hide behind her accent. Instead she would thump her fist to defend Irish people from those speaking out against them.
    • 2021 February 18, Charlie Warzel, “Don’t Go Down the Rabbit Hole”, in The New York Times[4], New York, N.Y.: The New York Times Company, →ISSN, →OCLC, archived from the original on 2023-07-27:
      The course is not precious about overly academic sources, either. ¶ "The students are confused when I tell them to try and trace something down with a quick Wikipedia search, because they've been told not to do it," she [Christina Ladam] said. "Not for research papers, but if you're trying to find out if a site is legitimate or if somebody has a history as a conspiracy theorist and you show them how to follow the page's citation, it's quick and effective, which means it's more likely to be used."
  5. (informal, derogatory) Blasted; damned.
    • 1839, Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby:
      It’s all owing to your precious caution that they got hold of it. If you had let me burn it, and taken my word that it was gone, it would have been a heap of ashes behind the fire, instead of being whole and sound, inside of my great-coat.
  6. (derogatory) Contrived to be cute or charming.
    • 2012 May 24, Nathan Rabin, “Film: Reviews: Men In Black 3”, in The Onion AV Club:
      In the abstract, Stuhlbarg’s twinkly-eyed sidekick suggests Joe Pesci in Lethal Weapon 2 by way of late-period Robin Williams with an alien twist, but Stuhlbarg makes a character that easily could have come across as precious into a surprisingly palatable, even charming man.
  7. (colloquial) Thorough; utter.
    a precious rascal


Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]



precious (plural preciouses)

  1. Someone (or something) who is loved; a darling.
    • 1937, J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit:
      “It isn't fair, my precious, is it, to ask us what it's got in its nassty little pocketses?”
    • 1909, Mrs. Teignmouth Shore, The Pride of the Graftons, page 57:
      She sat down with the dogs in her lap. "I won't neglect you for any one, will I, my preciouses?"


precious (not comparable)

  1. Very; an intensifier.
    There is precious little we can do.
    precious few pictures of him exist

Usage notes[edit]

This adverb is chiefly used before few and little; usage with other adjectives (slight, small, scant) is much more sporadic, and is in any case limited to the semantic field of “little, small, scarce, few”.


Further reading[edit]