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 If past is prologue, that person is likely to be another revolutionary. Joe Nocera Bloomberg Opinion, Star Tribune, "Biden puts antitrust revolution into practice," 10 Mar. 2021 And Muhammad Ali shoulders the prologue, and Dr. Martin Luther King shoulders the epilogue. Vinson Cunningham, The New Yorker, "Spike Lee Sees the Parallels," 7 Mar. 2021 Julie Beck: Give me the prologue of your friendship before your monthly hikes. Julie Beck, The Atlantic, "25 Years and 2,000 Miles of Hikes With Friends," 19 Feb. 2021 The patch will protect anyone who installs it, but if past is prologue that list will be far from comprehensive. Brian Barrett, Wired, "China and Russia's Spying Sprees Will Take Years to Unpack," 4 Mar. 2021 Five hundred years ago, we're told in a prologue, dragons sacrificed themselves for humans when a mystical evil called the Druun passed through the lands of Kumandra and turned many to stone. Lindsey Bahr, Star Tribune, "Review: 'Raya and the Last Dragon' is a dazzling adventure," 3 Mar. 2021 But this film was actually the prologue, a fun little comedy based on the true story of an amateur wrestler’s rise to fame. Brian Tallerico, Vulture, "The 30 Best Comedies on Amazon Prime," 11 Jan. 2021 Jones uses the voices from the prologue to speak across time, to character and reader alike. New York Times, "‘The Prophets’ Explores Black Love and Memory in a Time of Trauma," 6 Jan. 2021 In the days since the attack, that prologue has become easier to see. Benjamin Wallace-wells, The New Yorker, "The Long Prologue to the Capitol Hill Riot," 18 Jan. 2021

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

23 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Prologue.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for prologue



English Language Learners Definition of prologue

: an introduction to a book, play, etc.

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