pre·​lap·​sar·​i·​an ˌprē-ˌlap-ˈser-ē-ən How to pronounce prelapsarian (audio)
: characteristic of or belonging to the time or state before the fall of humankind

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Prelapsarian is the latest creation in the "lapsarian" family, which is etymologically related to Latin lapsus, meaning "slip" or "fall." "Supralapsarian" is the firstborn, appearing in 1633 as a word for someone who held the belief that people were predestined to either eternal life or eternal death before the Creation and the Fall (the event in the Bible when Adam and Eve were forced to leave the Garden of Eden because they had sinned against God). Next in line is "sublapsarian," which refers to a person who adhered to the view that God foresaw and permitted the Fall and after the Fall decreed predestination to eternal life as a means of saving some of the human race. That word first appears in 1656 and was followed by its synonym, "infralapsarian," in distant 1731. Postlapsarian, meaning "of, relating to, or characteristic of the time or state after the Fall," appeared two years later, and "prelapsarian" was delayed until 1879.

Examples of prelapsarian in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Perhaps this is just a brief moment of prelapsarian bliss, doomed to give way to run-of-the-mill internet toxicity. Jacob Stern, The Atlantic, 1 Dec. 2022 The landscape was constantly changing and frequently spectacular, from the prelapsarian lushness of the Franklin to rolling green hills that could pass for the English countryside to stark vistas with an almost Nordic ruggedness. Steve King, Condé Nast Traveler, 19 Aug. 2021 The vision, which now seems distinctly prelapsarian, was of the Web as a bottom-up phenomenon, with no bosses, and no rewards other than the satisfaction of participating in successful innovation. Louis Menand, The New Yorker, 16 Nov. 2020 Too often in such films and books there’s a longing, however concealed, for some prelapsarian moment when right and wrong, good guys and bad, seem to have been helpfully demarcated, and every day provided the opportunity to display one’s mettle. Lidija Haas, The New Republic, 13 Dec. 2019 The garden of prelapsarian innocence before the fall into global entanglements . . . Carlos Lozada, Washington Post, 27 June 2019 Beard took off for Africa straight out of school, chronicling the continent's prelapsarian beauty and the spectacle of its cataclysmic decline. Kevin Conley, Town & Country, 23 May 2016 The creator of Ethereum, Vitalik Buterin, consulted with the community and then emerged to proclaim that the money would be restored to its prelapsarian locations on the ledger. Gideon Lewis-Kraus, WIRED, 18 June 2018 Intellectual advocates of the job guarantee believe their proposal serves a larger purpose of restoring the Democratic Party to its prelapsarian state of working-class innocence, before neoliberals took control. Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, 25 Apr. 2018 See More

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

Word History


pre- + Latin lapsus slip, fall — more at lapse

First Known Use

1879, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of prelapsarian was in 1879


Dictionary Entries Near prelapsarian

Cite this Entry

“Prelapsarian.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Sep. 2023.

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