1. Of high cost or worth; valuable: precious jewels.
2. Highly esteemed; cherished: precious moments with the new baby.
3. Dear; beloved: a friend who is precious to me.
4. Affectedly dainty or overrefined: precious mannerisms.
5. Informal Thoroughgoing; unmitigated: a precious mess.
One who is dear or beloved; a darling.
Used as an intensive: "He had precious little right to complain" (James Agee).
[Middle English, from Old French precios, from Latin pretiōsus, from pretium, price; see per-5 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.