Hephaestus's Blog

Word of the Month: Precarious
October 15, 2015, 11:00
Filed under: Words of the Months

Etymology: From Latin precarius, ‘obtained through request or prayer’.

Definition: Uncertain, risky.

*deep breath*

This is a weird one. The word precarious entered English in the seventeenth century as a legal term. Something was precarious if it was held by the favour or consent of another. Somehow, over time, the meaning of the word shifted. As a position, or the ownership of a thing, being dependent on the caprice of another person is necessarily risky, the word came to mean ‘risky’. (In fact, my first instinct in that last sentence was to use ‘precarious’ instead of ‘risky’).

I decided to investigate this on a whim because a YouTuber I watched, Kurtjmac, was musing on where this word came from. It turned out to be a great deal more exciting than I anticipated.

Please let me know if there are any words you would like featured by commenting on this post.


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