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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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 Despite the inauspicious prologue, a decade later Ms. Wintour became Vogue’s editor in chief, an office that became the foundation for her emergence as a cultural and business impresario. Brenda Cronin, WSJ, 6 May 2022 The prologue ends with a startling theory — that Edison ordered Le Prince’s kidnapping and death. Washington Post, 27 Apr. 2022 The 180 stunning images, often taken on a simple black background, are introduced by a prologue from eminent zoologist Jonathan Baillie. CNN, 25 Apr. 2022 The prologue introduces the listener to the concept that will guide the show. Esther Choy, Forbes, 17 Apr. 2022 The prologue takes place in the fictitious North Atlantic island kingdom of Hrafnsey, where King Aurvandil (Hawke), aka War-Raven, arrives home to much fanfare. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, 11 Apr. 2022 This prologue features two armies, one robo-dragon, and multiple flaming catapults. Darren Franich,, 31 Mar. 2022 This has roots in a scene in Shakespeare's text, but Cloran expanded it into a prologue leading into the play itself. Jim Higgins, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 23 Mar. 2022 The prologue is presented without context or explanation for anyone too young or basketball-ignorant to understand what’s happening. Alan Sepinwall, Rolling Stone, 2 Mar. 2022 See More

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.

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

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Last Updated

22 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Prologue.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 May. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on prologue

Nglish: Translation of prologue for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of prologue for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about prologue


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