Definition of precarious in US English:



  • 1Not securely held or in position; dangerously likely to fall or collapse.

    ‘a precarious ladder’
    • ‘She watched in the rearview mirror as he fell from his precarious standing position on the trunk to crumple into the back seat.’
    • ‘The other stocking waves shyly from its precarious perch atop a tilted lampshade.’
    • ‘But now they have gone out on such precarious limbs their positions are clearly untenable.’
    • ‘Cyclists and drivers unperturbed by my precarious position skimmed past me in both directions.’
    • ‘In the distance small hamlets teetered on mountain ridges, seemingly ready to tumble off their precarious perch.’
    • ‘Black vultures choose less precarious rocky perches on which to nest but join the lammergeiers on the thermals in their quest for food.’
    • ‘By the time I returned, he was at the top of this precarious ladder cleaning windows.’
    • ‘Adam looked skyward from his precarious position on a roof beam of the house he was building.’
    • ‘He closes his eyes tightly and tries to wrench himself out of his precarious position.’
    • ‘Are you ready to catch yourself, to tumble safely out of a precarious position?’
    • ‘Since my perch on the social ladder was precarious, I had to make sure to watch my step and my mouth.’
    • ‘Execute this one correctly or risk putting your shoulders in a very precarious position.’
    • ‘Her position seemed ever more precarious by the minute, and it was clear that I would have to rescue her.’
    • ‘As I looked down from my precarious position next to a pile of honey on top of the Aga, I noticed two things.’
    • ‘Shooting out lights, opening and closing doors and leaping to precarious positions are all part of the game.’
    dangerous, hazardous, perilous, unsafe, risky, deceptive, unreliable, undependable, unstable
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Dependent on chance; uncertain.
      ‘he made a precarious living as a painter’
      • ‘And the world was hanging in a very precarious balance.’
      • ‘Funding for professional athletes is based on medal winning, which seems precarious.’
      • ‘It's a tiny blob of lava that previously housed a small community, making a precarious living from fishing, on its rocky slopes.’
      • ‘If that is where you are this morning, your position is very precarious.’
      • ‘The situation is even more precarious this time around.’
      • ‘The divisions within Australian ruling circles are also being fuelled by the increasingly precarious position of the Australian economy.’
      • ‘Do any professional publishers understand, one wonders, how precarious their position is?’
      • ‘Yet, for all its parliamentary numbers, the government remains politically precarious.’
      • ‘They managed to scrape a precarious living from the eggs laid by that one hen.’
      • ‘One would expect a bird living in the shadow of remote island volcanoes to lead a somewhat precarious existence.’
      • ‘In Hungary, there have been large and angry protests by farmers, whose livelihoods are becoming extremely precarious.’
      • ‘But today's results certainly emphasise the precarious state of the group's finances.’
      • ‘We learned about their precarious existence with nature and their love of the sea.’
      • ‘But the amount of money they owe makes the situation more precarious than we are comfortable with.’
      • ‘With cruel irony, as livelihoods became increasingly precarious, population totals soared.’
      • ‘As Finance Secretary I found that the finances of the state were in a precarious condition.’
      • ‘Given how precarious this recovery has been, policymakers won't rush to hike rates.’
      • ‘We can see clearly the essence of despotism and the precarious nature of democracy.’
      • ‘After a somewhat precarious start, her husband had stable and prosperous business interests in Chicago.’
      • ‘You remember how precarious the company was after your father and grandfather died.’
      uncertain, insecure, unreliable, unsure, unpredictable, undependable, risky, hazardous, dangerous, unsafe, hanging by a thread, hanging in the balance, perilous, treacherous, on a slippery slope, on thin ice, touch-and-go, built on sand, doubtful, dubious, delicate, tricky, problematic
      View synonyms


Mid 17th century: from Latin precarius ‘obtained by entreaty’ (from prex, prec- ‘prayer’) + -ous.