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

Definition of prefigure

transitive verb

1 : to show, suggest, or announce by an antecedent type, image, or likeness
2 : to picture or imagine beforehand

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Other Words from prefigure

prefigurement \ ˌprē-​ˈfi-​gyər-​mənt How to pronounce prefigure (audio) , especially British  -​ˈfi-​gə-​ \ noun

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 As in life, guns prefigure and alter things, often irreparably. Jeffrey Ann Goudie,, "Two boys go on the lam in debut novel ‘Raft of Stars’," 18 Mar. 2021 Hamlet 2000 is a film of blue hallucinations and vertigo in a strange, nervous year that seems to prefigure the anguish that is 2020. Virginia Heffernan, Wired, "Hamlet 2000 Has Never Made More Sense," 29 Dec. 2020 Jesus’ swaddling clothes prefigure his freeing us from death’s winding sheets. Alexandra Mullen, WSJ, "‘The Oxford Handbook of Christmas’ Review: The Making of a Holiday," 23 Dec. 2020 Not long ago, Hong Kong was seen as the city that would prefigure a more liberal, prosperous future for China. Washington Post, "China strangles its world city," 3 July 2020 In one jaw-dropping sequence of side-by-sides, af Klint paintings uncannily prefigure later work by celebrated contemporaries and descendants, among them Albers, Klee and Warhol. Sheri Linden, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Beyond the Visible — Hilma af Klint': Film Review," 17 Apr. 2020 Leaving Portugal was another story, and the Kafkaesque obstacles European Jews encountered attempting to gain entry to the West prefigured the difficulties African and Syrian refugees face today. Thomas Chatterton Williams, Harper's Magazine, "The Wanderer’s Port," 30 Mar. 2020 At home, she was seen as power-hungry but, through her New Life Movement, helped foster an upright Chinese identity in opposition to supposed Western decadence, prefiguring some of the ideological zealotry of the Cultural Revolution. Time, "1937: Soong Mei-ling," 5 Mar. 2020 Their recalcitrance prefigured, in certain ways, the reflexively libertarian thinking of today. Matt Stoller, Wired, "Covid-19 Will Mark the End of Affluence Politics," 25 Feb. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'prefigure.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of prefigure

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for prefigure

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

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Time Traveler for prefigure

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

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Last Updated

31 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Prefigure.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 May. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of prefigure

formal : to show or suggest (something that will happen or exist at a future time)

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