pre·​fig·​ure ˌprē-ˈfi-gyər How to pronounce prefigure (audio)
 especially British  -ˈfi-gə
prefigured; prefiguring; prefigures

transitive verb

: to show, suggest, or announce by an antecedent type, image, or likeness
: to picture or imagine beforehand
ˌprē-ˈfi-gyər-mənt How to pronounce prefigure (audio)
 especially British  -ˈfi-gə-

Examples of prefigure in a Sentence

His style of painting prefigured the development of modern art. the first crocus traditionally prefigures the arrival of spring
Recent Examples on the Web The film, with a screenplay by Buck Henry, is a biting satire of the American tabloid mentality and in some ways prefigures the contemporary reality-show mind-set of fame at whatever cost. Mark Olsen, Los Angeles Times, 14 June 2024 But the unleashing of ethnic nationalisms amid imperial collapse and global conflict saw the genocidal massacre of Armenians and prefigured the new republic. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, 6 Mar. 2024 Kremlin authorities seized on Macron’s remarks, arguing that NATO troops in Ukraine would prefigure a direct armed confrontation with Russia. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, 28 Feb. 2024 Some people think of Sutherland as the ‘godfather of computer graphics’ – and with good reason, given that his Sketchpad application prefigured the AutoCAD tools so useful in drafting and designing today. John Werner, Forbes, 23 Feb. 2024 See all Example Sentences for prefigure 

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

Word History


Middle English, from Late Latin praefigurare, from Latin prae- pre- + figurare to shape, picture, from figura figure

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of prefigure was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near prefigure

Cite this Entry

“Prefigure.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


pre·​fig·​ure (ˈ)prē-ˈfig-yər How to pronounce prefigure (audio)
 especially British  -ˈfig-ər
: to show, suggest, or announce by an earlier type, image, or likeness
the first crocus prefigures the arrival of spring
: to picture or imagine beforehand
prefigure the outcome of the game
(ˈ)prē-ˈfig-yər-mənt How to pronounce prefigure (audio)
 especially British  -ˈfig-ər-

More from Merriam-Webster on prefigure

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