precipice

Cartoon characters often end up on a precipice, the edge of a steep cliff, where their chubby toes curl and cling as they totter and eventually fall, making a hole in the ground below and getting up again. Most real people avoid precipices.

Unless you're a skilled climber or mountain-sport enthusiast, a precipice is a scary thing. Some imagine falling off and making the sharp drop, while others get dizzy just thinking about looking down. This makes sense, considering that the 17th-century English word precipice comes, through French, from Latin words meaning "headlong" and "abrupt descent." In modern use, precipice also describes how it feels to fall, or fail, in areas of life that don't involve mountains, such as being "on the precipice of losing everything."

Definitions of precipice
  1. noun
    a very steep cliff
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    type of:
    cliff, drop, drop-off
    a steep high face of rock
  2. noun
    the brink of a dangerous or potentially disastrous situation
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    type of:
    brink, cusp, verge
    the limit beyond which something happens or changes
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