prej·​u·​dice | \ ˈpre-jə-dəs How to pronounce prejudice (audio) \

Definition of prejudice

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : injury or damage resulting from some judgment or action of another in disregard of one's rights especially : detriment to one's legal rights or claims
2a(1) : preconceived judgment or opinion
(2) : an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge
b : an instance of such judgment or opinion
c : an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race, or their supposed characteristics


prejudiced; prejudicing

Definition of prejudice (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to injure or damage by some judgment or action (as in a case of law)
2 : to cause to have prejudice

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Choose the Right Synonym for prejudice


predilection, prepossession, prejudice, bias mean an attitude of mind that predisposes one to favor something. predilection implies a strong liking deriving from one's temperament or experience. a predilection for travel prepossession suggests a fixed conception likely to preclude objective judgment of anything counter to it. a prepossession against technology prejudice usually implies an unfavorable prepossession and connotes a feeling rooted in suspicion, fear, or intolerance. a mindless prejudice against the unfamiliar bias implies an unreasoned and unfair distortion of judgment in favor of or against a person or thing. a strong bias toward the plaintiff

Prejudice: For or Against?

Although prejudice, with its connotations of intolerance , implies a negative bias, the word can be used in positive constructions:

I, too, appreciate projects that treat a difficult subject with rigor, although I'll confess to harboring a bit of prejudice toward thing-biographies.
Adam Baer, Harper's, May 2011

That's true for the participial adjective prejudiced as well:

“The question itself as posed in the survey obviously is prejudiced in favor of the program,” said Tod Story, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada.
Neal Morton, Las Vegas Review Journal, 2 Aug. 2016

In negative constructions, prejudice and prejudiced often precede against:

Lee County Circuit Judge Jacob Walker on Tuesday ruled that claims of juror misconduct by former House Speaker Mike Hubbard failed to show that the jury was prejudiced against Hubbard.
Mike Cason,, 19 Oct. 2016

Examples of prejudice in a Sentence

Noun But today most black Americans not hampered by poverty or prejudice take for granted their right to study Italian, listen to Britney Spears or opera, play in the NHL, eat Thai food, live anywhere, work anywhere, play anywhere, read and think and say anything. — Stephan Talty, Mulatto America, 2003 It is easy to suppose at this late date that there is barely any overt racism left in the United States,  … Kennedy's catalog of mundane cases of explicit anti-black prejudice provides ample illustration of what lurks beneath the surface politeness of many whites. — John McWhorter, New Republic, 14 Jan. 2002 The boundaries between hate and prejudice and between prejudice and opinion and between opinion and truth are so complicated and blurred that any attempt to construct legal and political fire walls is a doomed and illiberal venture. — Andrew Sullivan, New York Times Magazine, 26 Sept. 1999 When my mother, who, unlike my father, was Jewish, encountered unpleasant social prejudice during my high-school years, I acquired a second marginal identity. — Carl E. Schorske, Thinking with History, 1998 The organization fights against racial prejudice. religious, racial, and sexual prejudices We tend to make these kinds of decisions according to our own prejudices. He has a prejudice against fast-food restaurants. Verb Paul Revere … engraved the drawing and printed hundreds of vividly colored copies, which traveled throughout the colonies. Well might one judge at Captain Preston's trial complain that "there has been a great deal done to prejudice the People against the Prisoner." — Hiller B. Zobel, American Heritage, July/August 1995 My friends would have had me delay my departure, but fearful of prejudicing my employers against me by such want of punctuality at the commencement of my undertaking, I persisted in keeping the appointment. — Anne Brontë, Agnes Grey, 1847 all the bad stories I had heard about the incoming CEO prejudiced me against him even before the first meeting See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The Civil Rights Act of 1964 banned such discrimination outright, but insidious forms of prejudice have long remained. New York Times, 23 Apr. 2022 Despite the abundant issues of prejudice, my experience here has been memorable and enjoyable. Nicole Phillip, The Week, 21 Apr. 2022 Many of your clients have already been tried in the court of public opinion and there’s a lot of prejudice out there against them. Peter Caranicas, Variety, 20 Apr. 2022 David Fuad, one of the NCAA’s lawyers from Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, objected on grounds of prejudice about a portion of the deposition from Emmert that referenced an unrelated case involving a brain injury. James Crepea | The Oregonian/oregonlive, oregonlive, 18 Apr. 2022 But if that single checkbox classifies us all with this skin, what then—despite America’s history of prejudice against all racially Black people—separates us at those points of entry? Rita Omokha, ELLE, 14 Apr. 2022 Federal prosecutors have dismissed the defense’s legal arguments as baseless and denounced their allegations of prejudice on the part Wise and U.S. Attorney Erek Barron. Alex Mann, Baltimore Sun, 14 Apr. 2022 Employees said that the Chateau’s culture of prejudice extended to its treatment of prominent Black and Latino visitors who were stopped, questioned and challenged on arrival at a higher rate than their white equivalents. Gary Baum, The Hollywood Reporter, 22 Mar. 2022 The five juveniles, who were in sixth to eighth grade at Lyons Creek Middle School, were arrested on charges of battery and evidence of prejudice while committing a battery, a third-degree felony. NBC News, 11 Mar. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Therefore, Musk's continuing public statements about these issues only serve to prejudice the jury pool in this case by potentially influencing their deliberations during trial. Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica, 18 Apr. 2022 But the trial judge ruled Monday that the essay would not be permitted as evidence because it was written years ago as part of a writing seminar and could unfairly prejudice the jury. Faith Karimi, CNN, 7 Apr. 2022 These ideas in opposition create cognitive dissonance, and this makes people uncomfortable in a way not reducible to prejudice alone. New York Times, 29 Mar. 2022 And there is no guarantee that a post-Putin Russia would be any more sympathetic toward the West, especially if punishing sanctions further prejudice the power elite and ordinary Russians against America and Europe. Stephen Collinson, CNN, 24 Mar. 2022 Stripped of any detail which might prejudice the criminal inquiry, the report's interim conclusions -- that gatherings had been inappropriate, that a drinking culture existed at No 10, that the place lacked leadership -- surprised no one. Rosa Prince, CNN, 1 Feb. 2022 From fighting mass deforestation in the Amazon to forgetting about Mother's Day, our bookish heroine excels at battling poachers, pollution, and prejudice all while navigating life as a (not-so) average preteen girl. Cailey Rizzo, Travel + Leisure, 9 Aug. 2021 Judges are hesitant to allow these witnesses to testify, lawyers said, on the ground that allowing testimony about uncharged allegations could unfairly prejudice the jury. New York Times, 1 Dec. 2021 Jacob, one of the Hall family lawyers, saw the news conference as an attempt to prejudice anyone who might be scrutinizing the killing and denied that Hall had robbed anyone. NBC News, 19 Nov. 2021 See More

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


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for prejudice

Noun and Verb

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin praejudicium previous judgment, damage, from prae- + judicium judgment — more at judicial

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Time Traveler for prejudice

Time Traveler

The first known use of prejudice was in the 13th century

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Statistics for prejudice

Last Updated

18 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Prejudice.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for prejudice


prej·​u·​dice | \ ˈpre-jə-dəs How to pronounce prejudice (audio) \

Kids Definition of prejudice

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a liking or dislike for one rather than another especially without good reason She has a prejudice against department stores.
2 : a feeling of unfair dislike directed against an individual or a group because of some characteristic (as race or religion)
3 : injury or damage to a person's rights


prejudiced; prejudicing

Kids Definition of prejudice (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to cause to have an unfair dislike of The incident prejudiced them against the company.
2 : to cause damage to (as a person's rights) Newspaper stories prejudiced the upcoming trial.


prej·​u·​dice | \ ˈpre-jə-dəs How to pronounce prejudice (audio) \

Legal Definition of prejudice

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : injury or detriment to one's legal rights or claims (as from the action of another): as
a : substantial impairment of a defendant's ability to defend the court found no prejudice to the defendant by the lengthy delay in bringing charges
b : tendency for a decision on an improper basis (as past conduct) by a trier of fact whether an ex parte communication to a deliberating jury resulted in any reasonable possibility of prejudice to the defendantNational Law Journal
c : implied waiver of rights and privileges not explicitly retained District Court erred in attaching prejudice to prisoner's complaint for injunctive reliefNational Law Journal
2 : a final and binding decision (as an adjudication on the merits) that bars further prosecution of the same cause of action or motion dismisses this case with prejudice the dismissal was without prejudice
3a : an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race, or their supposed characteristics the Constitution does not prohibit laws based on prejudice per se— R. H. Bork
b : an attitude or disposition (as of a judge) that prevents impartiality that the judge before whom the matter is pending has a personal bias or prejudice…against himU.S. Code


transitive verb
prejudiced; prejudicing

Legal Definition of prejudice (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to injure or damage the rights of by some legal action or prejudice if the joinder of offenses or defendants…appears to prejudice a defendant or the governmentFederal Rules of Criminal Procedure Rule 14
2 : to injure or damage (rights) by some legal action or prejudice that the denial prejudiced his right to a fair trial this clause does not prejudice other rights

History and Etymology for prejudice


Old French, from Latin praejudicium previous judgment, damage, from prae- before + judicium judgment

More from Merriam-Webster on prejudice

Nglish: Translation of prejudice for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of prejudice for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about prejudice


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