full of danger or risk

  • The company is in a parlous financial situation.
  • He talked about the parlous state of the country.

Not to be confused with “parlour”, the living room of a house or a room for entertaining guests (a room for talking), for which at Vanguard they make the most of the alliteration and similitude:

Mrs Chioma Nwanze, a beer parlour owner, lamented the fall in the number of customers this festive period due to the parlous state of the economy.

adverb: parlously

[From Middle English alteration of perilous]

First Known Use: 14th century

Parlous is both a synonym and a derivative of “perilous“; it came to be as an alteration of “perilous” in Middle English. (“Perilous” is derived from the Anglo-French perilleus, which ultimately comes from the Latin word for “danger”: “periculum.”) Both words are documented in use from at least the 14th century, but by the 17th century “parlous” had slipped from common use and was considered more or less archaic. It experienced a resurgence in popularity in the 20th century (although some critics still regarded it as an archaic affectation), and today it appears in fairly common use, often modifying “state” or “times.” [Parlous also used to mean dangerously clever or mischievous; keen; shrewd. But in this sense it has long fallen out of disuse.]

Synonyms: grave, grievous, hazardous, jeopardizing, menacing, dangerous, perilous, risky, serious, threatening, unhealthy, unsafe, venturesome

The container shipping industry, for instance, is a harbinger of the global economy, which makes the following trending stories at gCaptain and the Nikkei Asian Review most illuminating:

Thus “zombie ships”, as they have become known in shipbroking circles, are masking the parlous state of container shipping.

[Image: World Shipping]

The freight rates that large oil carriers charge on certain routes have plunged about 30% since the beginning of the year.


And from ships to water … or at least water security:

And, of course, the desalination plant at Wonthaggi. The desal plant has become an easy political target. But the water situation in Victoria was parlous when former premier John Brumby gave it the green light, with signs Melbourne was running out of water.

Parlous … it’s all about impending danger, nervous tension, perilousness:

1. Fraught with danger; that is, accompanied by problems, dangers, or difficulties: Chad embarked on a parlous trip down the river and over the rapids.

2. Full of or expressing nervous tension and anxiety: Shanna’s mood was most parlous when she was preparing to make her first speech as a member of the government.

3. Etymology: a contraction of perilous; from Old French perillous (French périlleux), “dangerous, hazardous”; from Latin periculosus, which came from periculum, “dangerous”.


It’s the mood in Eastern Europe, a tense standoff:

And as so oft today, life imitates art:

A game by Lemony Snickets

A Series of Unfortunate Events The Perilous Parlous Game [Image: Amazon]

A novel by Ed Southern

Cover Art shows ““Workmen Put a New Roof on Salem’s Single Sisters’ House.” [Image:]
At Creative Loafing, love’s labours lost:

Carmichael’s has recently added Carmichael’s Kids, a store selling books for children. In these parlous days, the opening of Carmichael’s Kids reminds us never to give up hope. Books are good. Kids are good. Let’s get them together.

Not since Noah and the great flood has humankind been in such a parlous state.

Further Reading



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