pre·his·to·ry | \ ˌprē-ˈhi-st(ə-)rē \

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

Drug use almost certainly began in prehistory and spread with migrations. Andrew Lawler, Science | AAAS, "Did ancient Mesopotamians get high? Near Eastern rituals may have included opium, cannabis," 19 Apr. 2018 Scientists have struggled to peer into the prehistory of Southeast Asia because the region’s hot, humid climate tends to degrade DNA. Lizzie Wade, Science | AAAS, "How rice farming may have spread across the ancient world," 17 May 2018 This three-pronged mixture of indigenous hunter-gatherers, early farmers, and a later wave of migrants parallels the prehistory of Europe, also illuminated by ancient DNA in recent years. Lizzie Wade, Science | AAAS, "How rice farming may have spread across the ancient world," 17 May 2018 This phenomenon has been observed since ancient times and may be one of the earliest astronomical observations in human prehistory. Tom Metcalfe /, NBC News, "What is the summer solstice?," 20 June 2018 Join an expert prehistory guide, an author and authority on the Cro Magnon sites of the region, to visit Rouffignac, Font de Gaume, Abri Cap Blanc, Lascaux II [worth noting that some of these need to be booked months in advance]. Jack Dancy, Town & Country, "How to Plan a Trip to Europe," 5 Oct. 2016 And the lab refrigerators are filled with bones from 2,000 more denizens of prehistory. Carl Zimmer, New York Times, "David Reich Unearths Human History Etched in Bone," 20 Mar. 2018 For art mavens, desert road-trippers, and anyone interested in the sorts of prehistory-referencing spiritual ceremonies popularized by Burning Man, Stone Circle will soon become a landmark on the West Texas tourist circuit. Michael Agresta, WIRED, "Marfa, Texas Is Getting Its Own Solar-Powered Stonehenge," 16 May 2018 One of the teams was led by Eske Willerslev, a geneticist at the University of Copenhagen who has helped revolutionize our understanding of human prehistory by collecting DNA from age-old skeletons. Carl Zimmer, New York Times, "In Ancient Skeletons, Scientists Discover a Modern Foe: Hepatitis B," 9 May 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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Last Updated

2 Sep 2018

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The first known use of prehistory was in 1871

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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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