pro·​logue | \ ˈprō-ˌlȯg How to pronounce prologue (audio) , -ˌläg \
variants: or less commonly prolog

Definition of prologue

1 : the preface or introduction to a literary work
2a : a speech often in verse addressed to the audience by an actor at the beginning of a play
b : the actor speaking such a prologue
3 : an introductory or preceding event or development

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Did You Know?

In ancient Greek drama, the prologos (a word that means basically "speaking before") was the opening portion of the play, before the entry of the all-important chorus. It might be spoken by a single actor, maybe playing a god, who would "set the scene" for the audience. Playwrights today instead often provide the same kind of "scene-setting" information through dialogue near the play's beginning; in movies, it may appear (as in the "Star Wars" series) in the form of actual written text. In a nonfiction book, the lead-in is now usually called a preface or introduction; novels rarely provide any introduction at all. Still, prologue remains a useful word for nonliterary purposes. The saying "The past is prologue" tells us that, in real life, almost everything can be a prologue to what follows it.

Examples of prologue in a Sentence

the prologue to his autobiography unfortunately, the burglary, which he committed while still a teen, was but a prologue to a wasted life of crime
Recent Examples on the Web After that, if past is prologue, Jackman will follow through on his threat. Bill Keveney, USA TODAY, "Beware, Ryan Reynolds! Hugh Jackman plots revenge after online ambush: 'I'll get him back'," 23 Apr. 2020 If past is prologue, new versions of of iOS and Android will hit sometime this year, and those updates will include new emoji. Angela Watercutter, Wired, "The Suicide Squad Won't Be Delayed by Coronavirus," 13 Apr. 2020 James Cameron) Earth is barely glimpsed in Avatar, but the prologue to James Cameron’s sci-fi epic hints at tragic conditions: The planet’s resources have been drained and its lands scoured by by warring private contractors. David Sims, The Atlantic, "22 Movies About the End of the World to Watch Now," 18 Apr. 2020 My parents, like many immigrants, depicted their pre-America lives as mere prologue, quickly sketched. C Pam Zhang, The New Yorker, "When Your Inheritance Is to Look Away," 7 Apr. 2020 Quarantine is an old word, and Daniel Defoe’s Journal of a Plague Year, a fictional account of the 1665 epidemic of bubonic plague in London, reads like a prologue to this pandemic. Sylvia Poggioli, The New York Review of Books, "Pandemic Journal, March 23–29," 29 Mar. 2020 If the results of the most recent four or five weeks serve as prologue, the power rankings in the Atlantic could look vastly different by mid-March. Kevin Paul Dupont,, "The Bruins’ perch atop Atlantic Division standings looks precarious," 5 Jan. 2020 This will be merely the prologue to a protracted legal battle. The Economist, "A judge finds there is nothing wrong with Harvard admissions," 5 Oct. 2019 And if the past is prologue, the prospects for this revolution leading to democracy are poor. Rebecca Hamilton, Washington Post, "The Georgetown Student Who Became Justice Minister of Sudan," 5 Feb. 2020

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for prologue

Middle English prolog, from Anglo-French prologue, from Latin prologus preface to a play, from Greek prologos part of a Greek play preceding the entry of the chorus, from pro- before + legein to speak — more at pro-, legend

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Time Traveler for prologue

Time Traveler

The first known use of prologue was in the 14th century

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Statistics for prologue

Last Updated

21 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Prologue.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jun. 2020.

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How to pronounce prologue (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of prologue

: an introduction to a book, play, etc.

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