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I know it's an idiomatic synonym for "make a guess" or "take a guess," but what is the underlying basis for the phrase? Is "hazarding a guess" more dangerous than "taking a guess?"

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4 Answers

The word “hazard” is (probably) from an arabic word meaning “dice”, and came to English through French where it originally meant a game of dice and then more generally chance, randomness. The word further evolved in English to mean risk, then danger. I'll hazard the guess that “hazard a guess” is an idiom that retains the older meaning of “taking a chance on a guess”.

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The game of 'Hazard' came back from the Arab world with the crusaders and ultimately became craps –  mgb Jun 24 '11 at 22:52
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hazard verb [trans.]
venture to say (something): he hazarded a guess.

It's like “make a guess”, really. Maybe a bit more uncertain, even.


In addition to meaning, I should say that it is very commonly used:

ngram

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So it's not an idiomatic phrase at all, is it?...Didn't realize hazard is actually a defined verb. –  Robert Harvey Apr 28 '11 at 21:25
    
Robert Harvey: I would still consider hazard a guess an idiomatic expression. I doubt the verb (in its first meaning) is used in any other context. –  Jimi Oke Apr 28 '11 at 22:44
    
"I'd hazard that ..." is not unknown, though I wouldn't be surprised if it arose from hazard a guess. –  John Bartholomew Mar 29 '12 at 8:50
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As reported by the NOAD, one of the meanings of hazard (when used as verb) is "venture to say (something)."

She hazarded a guess.

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I'm not having any of this. This phrase is a conundrum that has changed as time has gone by. A definitive answer is nowhere to be found on the net regarding "I'll hazard a guess". My money is on the fact theory that this phrase is a misquote of "I'll have as a guess" and has become misquoted for years and years and finally evolved into "hazard".

That's my thought any way.

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There's just no phonological process by which "have as" could evolve into "hazard", and the two sound so completely different that an eggcorn/mondegreen is practically impossible. On the other hand, a cursory inspection of the usage history of "hazard" quite clearly reveals that the word used to mean "chance, gamble". So it appears that, regardless of whether you'll have any of this or not, you're quite wrong. –  Marthaª Jun 24 '11 at 21:25
    
Might sound a bit convincing if you mumble it quickly. Chinese whispers and all that... –  Jonathan Nov 8 '11 at 16:22
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protected by RegDwigнt Mar 29 '12 at 9:52

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