Difficult Words : Precipitous and Precipitate

Difficult Words : Precipitous and Precipitate

Precipitate (pri SIP i TATE) v: to cause to happen abruptly

• A panic among investors precipitated last Monday's crisis in the stock market.

• The police were afraid that distributing machine guns to the angry protestors might precipitate a riot.

Precipitate (pre SIP i tit) can also be an adjective, meaning unwisely hasty or rash. A precipitate decision is one made without enough thought beforehand.

• The guidance counselor, we thought, was precipitate when he had the tenth grader committed to a mental hospital for saying that homework was boring.

Precipitous (pri SIP i tus) adj: steep

Precipitous means like a precipice or cliff. Precipitous and precipitate are very closely related, as you probably guessed. But they don't mean the same thing. Even though precipitous is often used loosely to mean the same thing as precipitate.

• A mountain can be precipitous, meaning either that it is steep or that it comprises lots of steep cliffs.

Precipitous can also be used to signify things that are only figuratively steep. For example, you could say that someone had stumbled down a precipitous slope into drug addiction.

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