pre·​his·​to·​ry | \ ˌprē-ˈhi-st(ə-)rē How to pronounce prehistory (audio) \

Definition of prehistory

1 : the study of prehistoric humankind
2 : a history of the antecedents of an event, situation, or thing
3 : the prehistoric period of human evolution

Examples of prehistory in a Sentence

We are learning about the prehistory of North America.
Recent Examples on the Web Department officials say Pelton’s research experience is in the early prehistory of hunter-gatherers of the High Plains and the Rocky Mountains. USA TODAY, "Art against incarceration, glacial melt that could hurt a fly: News from around our 50 states," 22 Nov. 2019 This sort of conservatism has a prehistory as ancient as scepticism and privilege. The Economist, "Conservatism is fighting for its life against reactionary nationalism," 4 July 2019 All were routine activities in prehistory, but their legacy today is anything but. Lizzie Wade, Science | AAAS, "First people in the Americas came by sea, ancient tools unearthed by Idaho river suggest," 29 Aug. 2019 Hicks became infamous during New York gangland’s prehistory. Bill Daley,, "Rich Cohen’s ‘Last Pirate of New York’ recalls America’s gangster history. But is it truly history?," 5 Sep. 2019 The various eras of human prehistory seem named for dynastic families from alien worlds — the Mousterian, the Denisova, the Aurignacian. Jonny Diamond, Longreads, "Lumbersexuality, a Sport and a Pastime," 8 June 2019 Mike Pitts is an author and archeologist specializing in British prehistory, and one of a few to have excavated within Stonehenge itself. Julia Webster, Time, "Stonehenge Has Attracted Summer Solstice Visitors for Centuries, But Some Historians Worry About Its Future," 20 June 2019 Anthony Murphy, an author of books on Irish prehistory, made the find using a drone. Bridget Alex, Discover Magazine, "State of Science: Drought Uncovers Ancient Irish Henge," 1 Jan. 2019 In the prehistory of human creativity, the invention of drawing combines a new skill and a new tool. Robert Lee Hotz, WSJ, "Is This the World’s Oldest Hashtag?," 12 Sep. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'prehistory.' 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 prehistory

1871, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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The first known use of prehistory was in 1871

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Statistics for prehistory

Last Updated

25 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Prehistory.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 9 December 2019.

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How to pronounce prehistory (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of prehistory

: the period of time in the past before people could write : the time before history was written down
: the time and events that came before and led to the development of something

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Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with prehistory

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