General English


  • noun a combination of the likelihood of injury, damage or loss being caused by a potentially dangerous substance, technology or activity, or by a failure to do something, and the seriousness of the possible consequences
  • noun something that is regarded as likely to cause injury, damage or loss


  • verb to take a dangerous chance

Information & Library Science

  • verb to do something even though you know it may have dangerous or unpleasant results


  • noun the possibility of something harmful happening
  • verb to do something which may possibly cause harm or have bad results

Origin & History of “risk”

The ultimate origins of risk have never been satisfactorily explained. English acquired it via French risque from Italian risco, a derivative of the verb riscare ‘run into danger’, but there speculation takes over. One persistent theory is that its ancestral meaning is ‘sail dangerously close to rocks’, and attempts have been made to link it with Greek rhīza ‘cliff’ and Latin resegāre ‘cut off short’ (from the notion of coastal rocks being ‘cut off sharply’ or ‘sheer’). English acquired the French past participial form risqué in the 19th century.