, pre·cip·i·tates verb, transitive
- To throw from or as if from a great height; hurl downward: “The finest bridge in all Peru broke and precipitated five travelers into the gulf below” (Thornton Wilder).
- To cause to happen, especially suddenly or prematurely. See Synonyms at speed.
- Meteorology To cause (water vapor) to condense and fall from the air as rain, snow, sleet, or hail.
- Chemistry To cause (a solid substance) to be separated from a solution.
- Meteorology To condense and fall from the air as rain, snow, sleet, or hail.
- Chemistry To be separated from a solution as a solid.
- To fall or be thrown headlong: an ailing economy that precipitated into ruin despite foreign intervention.
noun (-tātˌ, -tĭt)
- Moving rapidly and heedlessly; speeding headlong.
- Acting with or marked by excessive haste and lack of due deliberation. See Synonyms at impetuous, reckless.
- Occurring suddenly or unexpectedly.
- Chemistry A solid or solid phase separated from a solution.
- A product resulting from a process, event, or course of action.
Origin: Latin praecipitāre, praecipitāt-, to throw headlong
Origin: , from praeceps, praecipit-, headlong
Origin: : prae-, pre-
Origin: + caput, capit-, head; see kaput- in Indo-European roots
- pre·cipˈi·tate·ly (-tĭt-lē) adverb
- pre·cipˈi·taˌtive adjective
The adjective precipitate
and the adverb precipitately
were once applied to physical steepness but are now used primarily of rash, headlong actions: Their precipitate entry into the foreign markets led to disaster. He withdrew precipitately from the race. Precipitous
currently means “steep” in both literal and figurative senses: the precipitous rapids of the upper river; a precipitous drop in commodity prices.
are also frequently used to mean “abrupt, hasty,” which takes them into territory that would ordinarily belong to precipitate
and precipitately: their precipitous decision to leave.
This usage is a natural extension of the use of precipitous
to describe a rise or fall in a quantity over time: a precipitous increase in reports of measles
is also an abrupt or sudden event. Though this extended use of precipitous
is well attested in the work of reputable writers, it is still widely regarded as an error.