We say something is risky when it involves the chance of loss or injury (a risky chess move, a risky investment). Perilous suggests a much higher degree of danger. Something is perilous if it is full of grave risk or imminent danger or destruction (a perilous ocean voyage in a small boat). Generally, risky applies to actions: a person’s risky activities or behavior expose them to hazards. Perilous usually applies to positions or situations someone is in, rather than particular actions they take, and perilous situations are often extended undertakings one has to get through—a perilous journey, perilous mission, or the perilous fight survived by the Star-Spangled Banner during the Battle of Baltimore. That said, life doesn’t have to be at stake for something to be perilous. Perilousness can be political, economic, spiritual, or emotional in nature.
To twist is to turn, wind, coil, or bend into a spiral shape: She twisted her hair into a bun; he twisted around in his chair to see who was behind him. To contort is to bend or twist into an unnatural, distorted, or grotesque position or shape: He had to contort his hands to play certain chords. Contort is most commonly used of the body, and particularly the face (a face hideously contorted by rage). It suggests an involuntary action caused by force, pain, or overpowering emotion (Pain contorted his features; her limbs had been horribly contorted in order to fit her body into the small space). Contort is also used figuratively, as when a person contorts or uncomfortably rearranges herself to fit into a social role or group.
The adjectives kind and gracious both imply a sympathetic attitude toward others, and a willingness to do good or give pleasure. Kind suggests a deep-seated characteristic shown either habitually or on occasion by considerate behavior: a kind father, a kind gesture. Gracious suggests a more formal kindness and generosity that stems from impeccable courtesy, as much as from a good heart (a gracious host, gracious hospitality). In some contexts, gracious refers to kindness from a superior to a subordinate—God save our gracious queen!—and may imply condescension. Another way of looking at it is that gracious suggests kindness that is not necessarily merited, so that being kind itself becomes an act of notable generosity. A gracious loser of an election might be praised for giving a gracious concession speech, congratulating the winner.