Risky (Precarious? Hazardous? Perilous?) Synonyms

Some words are synonyms, they are similar in meaning, but there is enough of a difference to make the synonym simply not fit a particular context or express the same ideas. If the word does not fit the context, then not only is your meaning unclear, but a reader can tell that your word choice was not natural and that you do not fully understand the word you are using—and this will make your writing suffer.

For example, let’s say you need to say that a secret story was shared between two friends, but you decide secret is too commonly used, so you check for an alternative. You will find such words as cryptic, arcane, clandestine, and furtive.  If you use one of those four words, you will change the meaning of your thought considerably.

  • Cryptic would mean that the story was hard to understand, so maybe the friends do not even know what it means.
  • Arcane would indicate the shared story is something such as wizardry or alchemy—some ancient type of knowledge, real or imagined.
  • Clandestine usually describes secret government programs or dangerous plots that have to do with spying or undercover missions.
  • Furtive would be sneaky such as a boy taking a cookie when he knows he is not allowed.

As you can see, these words do not have the exact same meaning. One would mean the two friends do not even know what the story means, the other indicates magic or ancient ideas are in that story, another seems to say they are spies or secret agents, while yet another makes them seem childishly sneaky. Those aren’t the same!

Maybe one of those other words would work in your context, but you must be extremely careful when hunting synonyms. Remember: words cannot always be easily interchanged!

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