Pro·​me·​the·​an prə-ˈmē-thē-ən How to pronounce Promethean (audio)
: of, relating to, or resembling Prometheus, his experiences, or his art
especially : daringly original or creative

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As some versions of the story go in Greek mythology, Prometheus (one of the Titan giants) modeled humans from clay and then taught them agriculture and all the arts of civilization. He also stole fire from the gods and gave it to humans. So inventive was he that anything that bears the stamp of creativity and originality can still be called Promethean. Zeus, however, had wanted the human race to perish, so Prometheus' actions were also disobedient. Hence Promethean can also mean defiant of authority or limits. As punishment for his disobedience, Zeus chained Prometheus to a rock where an eagle daily tore at his liver. Thus, any suffering on a grand scale can also be called Promethean - though this sense is not as common as the others.

Examples of Promethean in a Sentence

it is only through the efforts of a Promethean pioneer that an art form advances
Recent Examples on the Web The Promethean power of these systems is unlocking languages and dialects that have been unspoken for millennia. Jamie Merisotis, Forbes, 29 Nov. 2023 Others threaten nature with Promethean recklessness. Carl Zimmer, Discover Magazine, 3 Nov. 2010 The betterment of humankind through the conquest of space is a Promethean ambition, suitable for a world-famous billionaire. Matthew Gavin Frank, Harper's Magazine, 21 Mar. 2022 Many of them are here already in the pages of The Earth Transformed, obscured only by the long Promethean shadow that Frankopan attaches to the lonely figure of Man. Ben Ehrenreich, The New Republic, 10 May 2023 And the way this legacy antihero is treated like an afterthought, a needless addition to the supervillian roster, a half-baked Promethean concept and, later, a plot convenience is a huge bummer for fans. David Fear, Rolling Stone, 28 Apr. 2023 He was cast as a Promethean figure, leading an elite of workers whose nerves and muscles, minds and souls, were utterly attuned to the technological production systems themselves. Bogdan Costea, Fortune, 30 Mar. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'Promethean.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1594, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of Promethean was in 1594


Dictionary Entries Near Promethean

Cite this Entry

“Promethean.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 May. 2024.

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