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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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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”.

  • 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

  • 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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