I am involved in playing a video game that has roots in Japan. Sometimes I feel the language chosen suffers from translation issues. This game has chosen to use the word "Imperil" to mean that you take an action to make an enemy weak to an element such as fire or ice. I originally had to look up the meaning of imperil because I didn't know what it meant (link).

verb: put at risk of being harmed, injured, or destroyed.

It makes sense to me that this is the right word. But, the community around the game uses the word in a way that feels like nails on a chalkboard to me. They say: I imperiled him with fire.


The following are examples from the online community that feel wrong to me.

  1. I imperiled him with fire.
  2. I want to imperil him with fire.
  3. My sword has the ability to imperil fire.
  4. You can imperil him with fire.
  5. You can use fire imperil to make him weaker.

My Thoughts

Using examples of the word imperil from various online dictionaries I found on the web I came up with the following, which seem better, but I am still unsure if they are correct.

  1. I imperiled his resistance to fire.
  2. I want to imperil his resistance to fire.
  3. My sword has the ability to imperil his resistance to fire.
  4. You can imperil his resistance to fire.
  5. You can use fire imperilment to make him weaker.


Perhaps, it is that I am uncomfortable only because it is a new word. But, I just wanted to come here to see if I could get some clarity on usage and grammar.

  1. Is there anything wrong with the grammar of these original examples?

  2. Are these correct usages for imperil?

  3. Would these refinements be any better?

  • 3
    Imperil is not usable for threaten.
    – tchrist
    Apr 2, 2017 at 15:45
  • @tchrist This was not my intent. I want to use it to mean that I performed some act, and as a result he is now weaker to elemental damage.
    – Jerunh
    Apr 2, 2017 at 15:50
  • 1
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because language usage in video games loosely echoes rather than mirrors that of standard English. It's pointless trying to harmonise the two. Apr 2, 2017 at 16:14
  • 3
    @Jerunh Examples 3 and 5 are wrong. In 3, you've swapped the arguments to the transitive verb, so now the fire is in danger, threatened by the sword.
    – Dan Bron
    Apr 2, 2017 at 16:15
  • 2
    @edwinAshworth Just because it originates in a video game, has nothing to do with being on or off topic. I want to know how to properly use the word. Isn't that one of the reasons what this exchange exists?
    – Jerunh
    Apr 2, 2017 at 17:00

4 Answers 4


The Japanese language favours passive constructions and other phrasing where it's not directly stated who the cause of the action is. This lends some insight into why the translator might have chosen 'imperil'.

Your 'imperil' example sentences aren't grammatical, either those from the community which you provide, or those of your own concoction. (I prefer the community examples, for what it's worth. They feel more natural and your improvements make them more stilted. Sorry.) This is a specialist, nonstandard use of the word that works in one very specific context - this particular game - it assumes knowledge of that context and is not standard English. Correcting them is a fool's errand and, likely, a thankless task anyway. (Do you perhaps think people will adopt your 'improved' style? Hopefully, probably you don't... and this is all just to satisfy your own curiosity about the word.)

You might consider this vocabulary as some sort of attempt at stylising the English, as others have suggested - a deliberate idiosyncrasy. Without seeing the context I can't be sure, but I would actually suspect dodgy translation as the root cause, rather than style. Mistranslations abound in English rendered from Japanese (by native Japanese speakers) and Japan doesn't seem to care much about it. Odd words plucked from dictionaries and shoved into contexts where they don't belong are not uncommon. This isn't restricted to video games and goes far beyond all your base are belong to us.

For whatever reason, these 'imperil' example sentences are all built on something that is idiosyncratic, stylised, specialist, nonstandard or just plain wrong (albeit understandable). Your gaming community has adopted some natural-sounding jargon that works - does it matter if it is nonstandard?

Regardless, I wouldn't go throwing 'imperil' around in everyday conversation. It's not a word of the right register for that. (To get a better sense of its usage, you can trawl through the example sentences of reputable dictionaries at your leisure.) Plenty of good alternative words have already been suggested in answers and in comments, if you want to standardise your sentences to take them out of their specialist context.

However, there is no spell to fix this usage of 'imperil' for you. Sorry.

The question is itself flawed inasmuch as it asks for correction on something that is nonstandard usage, so there really is no solution.


As someone who teaches/tutors language (mainly English), let me try to give a 'real world' answer that seems most correct to my ear. Most commonly in modern times, if at all, you'll hear 'perilous' used from the base noun 'peril' to make the adjective. But, both imperil aned peril are a bit antiquated words that aren't really used in common speech anymore. Instead you'll hear that you are in 'danger' or any other more common synonym.

As for the game using the word 'imperil' for what it did, it could just be a poor translation in attempting to take the direct style of wording they're using in Japanese to try to remain faithful to the mood of the game (but often in times like this, it ends up being awkward.)

I don't believe I've ever actually taught either of those words or any forms of them to any student I've worked with, which are mostly exclusively looking for speaking language skills in modern day, often for business or just 'friendly' conversation.

Bottom line, it seems like a clear case of attempting to go with perhaps period-appropriate vernacular to give it a more immersive feel; that or what is being perceived as an 'authentic' representation of the fantasy world in the era it's taking place in.

Here's the golden rule really, especially since this is a game: If it's fun and helps you get into the feel of it, then it's not wrong. It may be awkward, and it may not be what was really spoken if this is a game based from a realistic time in Japan, but, it's a situation of take it how it is.

But as for your sentences, and really all the uses of the word up above, you can dig into some old book and glance at the style of speech, and put it under a microscope with a dictionary while making sure the latin that it comes from all matches up as if it were a test, but none of it in real context you would really consider 'correct' as it's not natural at all.

If it must be used for the sake of the game, then the most natural thing that can be used would to remove imperil and use the phrases 'place in peril' or 'put in peril'.

"I will place him in peril with fire."

Just for something to glance at to see the initial use of it, followed by the rest of ot the article using the natural words that have been in place for quite a long time now:


But, again, I believe this honestly is a simple case of either poor direct translation, or someones overuse of a thesaraus which is pretty common when it comes to trying to 'sound the part' for something of this nature.

Hope that helps, it's all I can offer as my experience from teaching and also having experienced games just like that to be honest (I think Way of the Samurai for PlayStation had awkward dialogue at times like that.) Sorry if this was totally the wrong direction of what you were looking for.

Better for me to at least try to help out rather than just ignore an interesting question completely! Cheers!

  • Thank you for being understanding and not completely ignoring the question. This game/series (Final Fantasy Record Keeper) has been good about its language in the past, which is why I ended up here.
    – Jerunh
    Apr 12, 2017 at 14:02

I happen to think that imperil is the mot juste in this case. The action taken has not actually caused harm, but has left the other player more susceptible to harm. The action was done willfully to cause peril. The etymology of "peril" is Latin, and means 'trial' or 'test'. That seems to be the very nature of what is going on in your game. "I've made you susceptible to fire...now what are you going to do?" Yes, imperil fits the bill precisely, as I perceive the situation, and I can not think of any other single word that serves as well. Perhaps it would be a good idea to treat the word imperil like a distant cousin who drives a big ol' pickup truck, dresses oddly, and is slightly maladjusted socially. Not double-date material, but just the person to call on moving day. Good one to keep in the fold....


Instead of "5.You can use fire imperil to make him weaker."

you should say "fire peril".

For example:

Safety Engineering (1913):

But there is no peril by which so many lives may be destroyed in a few moments, under circumstances of indescribable horror, that is equal to the fire peril.

Annual Report of the Department of State Fire Marshal (1915):

As often happens in other directions, this frequently amounts to some expense ; but such outlay is justified, and the public generally are safeguarded against the fire peril.

and the article Ford ignored Pinto fire peril, secret memos show Chicago Tribune 13 October 1979.

So when you need a verb, use "imperil", but if you need a noun use "peril".

  • What DavePhD said. See. Imperil is a verb while peril is a noun. Apr 7, 2017 at 23:07

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