from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Dangerously lacking in security or stability.
  • adjective Subject to chance or unknown conditions.
  • adjective Based on uncertain, unwarranted, or unproved premises.
  • adjective Archaic Dependent on the will or favor of another.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Dependent on the will or pleasure of another; liable to be lost or withdrawn at the will of another; hence, uncertain; insecure.
  • Specifically, in law, of uncertain tenure; revocable at the will of the owner or creator: as, a precarious right or loan.
  • Dependent only upon the will of the owner or originator; hence, arbitrary; unfounded.
  • Dependent upon chance; of doubtful issue; uncertain as to result.
  • Hence Dangerous; hazardous; exposed to positive peril, risk of misunderstanding, or other hazard.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective Depending on the will or pleasure of another; held by courtesy; liable to be changed or lost at the pleasure of another.
  • adjective Held by a doubtful tenure; depending on unknown causes or events; exposed to constant risk; not to be depended on for certainty or stability; uncertain

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective comparable dangerously insecure or unstable; perilous
  • adjective law depending on the intention of another

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adjective affording no ease or reassurance
  • adjective not secure; beset with difficulties
  • adjective fraught with danger


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[From Latin precārius, obtained by entreaty, uncertain, from precārī, to entreat; see pray.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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


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  • "In 1991, at age 17, I fled Bucks County, an overwhelmingly white, working-class region in southeast Pennsylvania where I grew up. I left because the life of the working class was brutal and I wanted no part of it. I cringed at the racism and xenophobia that seemed to rise out of the anxieties of precarious labor. I desperately hoped there was some alternative to coming home each day looking as battered as did so many grown-ups I would catch staring blankly into TV screens or half-empty glasses of beer."

    - Robert Eshelman, 'Meeting Myself in Bucks County', 28 Oct 2008.

    October 29, 2008

  • I live in Bucks County. Just so you know, this hardly describes most of the people I know here. :-) However, we are going Blue politically.

    October 29, 2008

  • I'm not responsible for what Mr Eshelman thinks, although I realise there are a few Pennsylvania Wordies who might have their own take. Actually I was a bit mystified by what he thought precarious meant in this context, let alone the rest.

    October 29, 2008

  • I think he might mean the precarious labor class, as in the ever-declining blue-collar segment of the population--declining because manufacturing is declining in this country.

    And it has been for as long as I can remember, actually. Though I went to school, as an adolescent, in an economically depressed city that had suffered very much from the decline of manufacturing. So that might color my view a bit.

    My first instinct was to take issue with Mr. Eshelman, actually. It isn't racism. It is xenophobia, as he says, and it is a sticking-with-your-own-tribe thing. To some that might be considered a euphemism for racism, but to me (and I grew up in PA), it means sticking with your own tribe (Italian with Italian; Pole with Pole; etc.). And that's not the same thing. There simply are not a lot of African Americans or other people of color in most of Pennsylvania, and that's got a lot to do with it. So while I respect his right to have an opinion, especially as a fellow Pennsylvanian, I wish he'd be more careful with his words or more clear about what he means.

    That goes for "precarious labor" as well.

    However, I do see myself in his last sentence, and--all due respect to reesetee, who obviously has a different experience or viewpoint on this--that last sentence is why I don't live in PA anymore.

    October 29, 2008

  • Bilby, I certainly wasn't suggesting you were responsible for what's in the article. I just wanted to point out that there are vastly different viewpoints about this part of the country (including mine).

    C_b, I also think that living near a metropolitan area makes a big difference in how you might see the region in retrospect. I grew up in the same place as you, but then moved to the Philadelphia area.

    I do agree, however, that the lower end of this county has been horribly overdeveloped. That much is evident to anyone.

    October 29, 2008

  • agreed, reesetee--also he's talking about the Bucks County of 1991, a good bit of time ago.

    October 29, 2008

  • eaiou - we've been mollusqued.

    October 29, 2008

  • Eaiouzah!

    October 30, 2008

  • Haha!

    October 30, 2008