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 Rarely has the pulsing rainbow glow of Christmas tree lights in a dark house seemed so sinister as in the prologue here, those colors bouncing off an urn on the mantel that signals the presence of death from the start. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Relic': Film Review | Sundance 2020," 27 Jan. 2020 After a brief and faintly amusing prologue, we are introduced to the title character: a baby with no fixed name or gender. Jesse Green, New York Times, "Review: In ‘The Underlying Chris,’ You Are Who You Were," 21 Nov. 2019 That story begins with an enigmatic prologue that takes place 50 years before the primary narrative begins. Bill Sheehan, Washington Post, "Twenty years after ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower,’ Stephen Chbosky delivers a thrilling surprise," 1 Oct. 2019 The prologue to the sideline pep talk was one touchdown by the offense in its first 24 possessions this season. Rich Campbell,, "Column: Matt Nagy’s profane pep talk with Mitch Trubisky saw the Bears coach trying to close the gap between motivator and QB guru," 25 Sep. 2019 Get our daily newsletter In the prologue Niza Jashi, a disaffected 32-year-old professor who has left Georgia for Berlin to escape her family’s terrible history, is suddenly forced to reckon with it. The Economist, "A saga of chocolate and upheaval in the Caucasus," 21 Nov. 2019 Taddeo’s presence as narrator only occupies an author’s note, plus a short prologue and epilogue. Margaret Wappler, Los Angeles Times, "Review: ‘Three Women’ studies the real sex lives of women, casting light on obscured desire," 26 July 2019 Past is prologue:The political 'fire extinguisher' of impeachment is more common Throughout the day, Republicans argued the Founding Fathers would have condemned an impeachment playing out along partisan lines. John Fritze, USA TODAY, "House impeaches Donald Trump in historic vote, reshuffling U.S. politics on eve of 2020," 19 Dec. 2019 The iconic prologue – a meticulous mix of jazz, athleticism, violence and grace — is off-point and untidy. Lee Williams | For The Oregonian/oregonlive, oregonlive, "This ‘West Side Story’ is too heavy on politics, too light on poetry," 14 Oct. 2019

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

13 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Prologue.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Feb. 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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