pro·​logue ˈprō-ˌlȯg How to pronounce prologue (audio)
variants or less commonly prolog
: the preface or introduction to a literary work
: a speech often in verse addressed to the audience by an actor at the beginning of a play
: the actor speaking such a prologue
: an introductory or preceding event or development

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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 While the prologue deals with the aftermath of Bryce's mate Hunt Athalar and brother Ruhn Danaan being captured and tortured by the Hind, the first chapter finally reveals what happens after Azriel and Rhysand meet Bryce. Maureen Lee Lenker,, 1 Feb. 2024 The unresolved sound of those harmonies mirrored the unresolved prologue in the text. Tom Roland, Billboard, 23 Jan. 2024 The 46th edition of the rally, held in Saudi Arabia for the fifth time, features a prologue and 12 stages spread out over 4,903 miles from Alula in the north to Yanbu on the Red Sea. Reuters, NBC News, 15 Jan. 2024 That opening is followed by a short prologue that describes runners on a ritual morning run. John Motyka, New York Times, 29 Jan. 2024 Not because that sardonic video prologue begged them to do so. Chris Willman, Variety, 26 Jan. 2024 What’s past, according to William Shakespeare, is prologue. Tom Roland, Billboard, 23 Jan. 2024 The movie’s dreamlike prologue follows a young Armenian boy escaping the brutality of the Ottoman Army during World War I, peering out of a tiny hole in an ornate luggage trunk. Siddhant Adlakha, Variety, 28 Dec. 2023 Yet still for these CEOs, good and bad, the past is likely a prologue to the future. Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, Fortune, 4 Jan. 2024 See More

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

Word History


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

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near prologue

Cite this Entry

“Prologue.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


pro·​logue ˈprō-ˌlȯg How to pronounce prologue (audio)
: an introduction to a book or play
: an act or event that comes before or introduces something

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