dangerous vs perilous

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agustina bsas

Senior Member
Argentina - Spanish
What's the difference between these two words? Could you give me an example where only one of these words could be used?
Thanks
 
  • b1947420

    Senior Member
    British English
    The words are synonyms. The only difference would be "which word sounds better in this sentence?"
    Agreed! I would add that "danger" has a sightly wider useage than "peril" as have their adjectives (as requested by the post.)

    A typical useage might be "He is a danger to society" it would be odd to see written "He is a peril to society" but in all other cases that I can think of both words would do in my opinion.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Also, "perilous" would not make sense to me in describing an object. For example, "WARNING: Dangerous current levels -- do not touch!" for an electrical device would look very strange as "WARNING: Perilous current levels..."

    "Perilous" to me seems to be used more often about something that presents a danger to humans as they are doing something. "Traversing the perilous falls", "Walking along the edge of the perilous cliffs", or "an account of or perilous journey through the jungles of Africa". As b1947420 said, it's less common than "dangerous".
     

    pickarooney

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    'Dangerous' is far more commonly used and for me perilous also conjures up images of adventure and mortal danger vis a vis sheer cliffs and mean-eating wildebeest.
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    Dangerous is an action word, and perilous is simply descriptive. People are dangerous because of what they do-- you can't call a person perilous.

    Danger is specific, vivid and concrete-- peril is more general and even vague. A "situation" is perilous, "circumstances" are perilous. "We live in perilous times" does not refer to specific dangers or imply same.

    The people who simply say they are synonymous have a point, of course-- but dangerous is the more interchangeable of the two words.

    Perilous is also getting a patina of sorts-- it is quaint, verging on obsolescence. "The Perils of Pauline" was a silent-era serial, and the word bears connotations evocative of Pearl White. "Siege Perilous" is a set phrase from chivalric literature and lore.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    I very much agree with James and Foxfirebrand. The cliff example is a good one. It is dangerous (for a person) to walk along the edge of a cliff because cliff-edges are perilous. Cliff-edges, in themselves, are not dangerous but, as FFB says, "dangerous" has the wider scope and could - and often would - replace "perilous" there in daily speech.
     
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