Precipitate vs precipitous

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Precipitate means 1.) to cause moisture to fall from the sky in the form of rain, snow, sleet, etc. 2.) to cause something to happen, especially causing something to happen too soon 3.) to do something rashly 4.) a solid substance separated out of a solution. Precipitate may be used as a verb, adjective or noun. Related words are  precipitates, precipitated, precipitating, precipitable, precipitability, precipitately, precipitateness, precipitative, precipitator. Precipitate comes from the Latin word praecipitare, meaning to hurl, to throw headlong.

Precipitous means steep, high, like a precipice. Related words are precipitously, precipitousness. Precipitous comes from the sixteenth century French word precipiteux. More and more, precipitate and precipitous are being used interchangeably to mean to cause something to happen too soon or to do something rashly. However, most editors still consider precipitous to only mean steep or high.


“Financial constraints are sometimes what precipitate design innovation.” (The Dallas Morning News)

Storm clouds house a variety of drop sizes that eventually precipitate as rain or snow. (Headlines & Global News)

There, the next election may precipitate the downfall of Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has welcomed immigrants and was instrumental in shaping the EU’s response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine. (The Chicago Tribune)

Behanan who is a close confidante of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, said that he was withdrawing as he did not want to precipitate a crisis for the Chief Minister or the party. (The Deccan Chronicle)

But Michelle soon takes a precipitous fall from that perch when she’s arrested for insider trading. (The International Film Journal)

The disease already has killed more than 6 million bats in the Eastern United States since the mid-2000s in what one expert has described as the most precipitous decline in American wildlife in recorded history. (The Seattle Times)