what is risk?

Risk Definition - What is risk?

We all believe we understand the term 'risk', but do we really?
The term Risk is used in many ways and has is given different definitions depending on the field and context. Common to most definitions of risk is uncertainty and undesirable outcomes (stakeholdermap.com).
Definitions of risk range from narrow definitions - risks to people or machinery resulting from hazards - to wide definitions that see risk as any uncertainty of outcome. The table below lists ten (10) definitions of risk from different industries and standards.
Definition Source
'combination of the risk of exposure and the impact = combination of (likelihood of the the threat being able to expose an element(s) of the system) and impact'
BSi - Information Security Risk Management ISO/IEC 27001
A situation involving exposure to danger: 'flouting the law was too much of a risk'
[mass noun]: 'all outdoor activities carry an element of risk'
[in singular]: The possibility that something unpleasant or unwelcome will happen: 'reduce the risk of heart disease'
Oxford Dictionaries
  • British & World English
  • risk
1. A probability or threat of damage, injury, loss, or any other negative occurrence that is caused by external or internal vulnerabilities, and that may be avoided through preemptive action. Business Dictionary
An uncertain event or set of events which, should it occur, will have an effect on the achievement of objectives; a risk is measured by a combination of the probability of a perceived threat or opportunity occurring and the magnitude of its impact on objectives. Managing Successful Programmes (OGC)
Definition Source
What all definitions [of risk] have in common is agreement that risk has two characteristics:
  • Uncertainty: An event may or may not happen.
  • Loss: An event has unwanted consequences or losses
Idiots Guide to Project Management
[Risk is the] Combination of the probability or frequency of occurrence of a defined threat or opportunity and the magnitude of the consequences of the occurrence. Association of Project Management
An ongoing or upcoming concern that has a significant probability of adversely affecting the success of major milestones. Rational Unified Process 2000
The likelihood of variation in the occurrence of an event, which may have either positive or negative consequences. Risk Analysis and Management of Projects (RAMP)
[Risk is] An uncertain event or set of events that, should it occur, will have an effect on the achievement of objectives. A risk is measured by a combination of the probability of a perceived threat or opportunity occurring, and the magnitude of its impact on objectives. PRINCE2 Glossary of terms
A possible event that could cause harm or loss, or affect the ability to achieve objectives. A risk is measured by the probability of a threat, the vulnerability of the asset to that threat, and the impact it would have if it occurred. Risk can also be defined as uncertainty of outcome, and can be used in the context of measuring the probability of positive outcomes as well as negative outcomes. ITIL

Risk Definition - references

ITILĀ® glossary and abbreviations https://www.axelos.com/Corporate/media/Files/Glossaries/ITIL_2011_Glossary_GB-v1-0.pdf

Risk Analysis and Management of Projects (RAMP), UK, web site circa 1998

Abstracted from Association of Project Management (UK) APMP Syllabus 2nd Edition, January 2000, Abridged Glossary of Project Management Terms (Rev.4)

Baker, K and Baker, S. 2000. Idiots Guide to Project Management, alpha books.

OGC, Managing successful programmes (Office of Government Commerce), London: TSO, 2007 pg. 51. Latest edition Managing successful programmes


BSi - Information Security Risk Management ISO/IEC 27001 https://shop.bsigroup.com/upload/Standards%20&%20Publications/publications/BIP0076-Chapter1.pdf

Oxford Dictionaries https://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/risk

Business Dictionary https://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/risk.html

PRINCE2 Glossary of terms https://www.stakeholdermap.com/prince2/prince2-glossary-R-records.html

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