pro·​sa·​ic | \prō-ˈzā-ik \

Definition of prosaic 

1a : characteristic of prose as distinguished from poetry : factual

b : dull, unimaginative prosaic advice

2 : everyday, ordinary heroic characters wasted in prosaic livesKirkus Reviews

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from prosaic

prosaically \prō-​ˈzā-​ə-​k(ə-​)lē \ adverb

Prosaic Has Literary Origins

In the 1600s, any text that was not poetic was prosaic. Back then, "prosaic" carried no negative connotations; it simply indicated that a written work was made up of prose. That sense clearly owes much to the meaning of the word's Latin ancestor prosa, which meant "prose." By the end of the 17th century, though, poetry had come to be viewed as the more beautiful, imaginative, and emotional type of writing, and prose was relegated to the status of mundane and plain-Jane. As a result, English speakers started using "prosaic" to refer to anything considered matter-of-fact or ordinary, and they gradually transformed it into a synonym for "colorless," "drab," "lifeless," and "lackluster."

Examples of prosaic in a Sentence

For the most part, the descriptions of the books listed in the "Catalog," though informative, are relentlessly prosaic, even hackneyed. — Mordecai Richler, New York Times Book Review, 8 Oct. 1989 In addition to the prosaic essentials of life—wheat, rice, and salt—the Portuguese found exotic stores of pepper, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and other spices. — Daniel J. Boorstin, The Discoverers, 1983 There is, of course, an ordinary medicine, an everyday medicine, humdrum, prosaic, a medicine for stubbed toes, quinsies, bunions, and boils … — Oliver Sacks, Awakenings, 1973 … where did he get his money? He had to eat and drink, buy apparatus and chemicals, even pay the poor rate. Where did he get the common coin to meet such unavoidable if prosaic obligations? — Flann O'Brien, The Dalkey Archive, 1964 He has a prosaic writing style. the prosaic life of a hardworking farmer She believes the noises are made by ghosts, but I think there's a more prosaic explanation.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

But in these more prosaic times Works usually end more matter-of-factily. Richard Rubin, WSJ, "Taxman in the Mirror: Judge Gets His Moment in Michael Jackson Case," 1 June 2018 In Aesop’s telling, the rural rodent has a secure life of prosaic peas while metropolitan mouse can dig into sumptuous cheese and honey — but only if a cat and dog won’t pounce (scary). New York Times, "At City Mouse in Chicago, It Starts With Cheese (of Course)," 31 Mar. 2018 Serious subjects should not be treated flippantly, of course, but the Almodovar brothers could have brought a little of their signature visual sparkle to this fairly prosaic package. Stephen Dalton, The Hollywood Reporter, "'The Silence of Others': Film Review | Berlin 2018," 21 Feb. 2018 More prosaic destinations include urban lay-bys and supermarket car parks. The Economist, "A British traveller’s travelogue," 12 July 2018 Today, his murals are framed by strips of prosaic wooden molding. Maria L. La Ganga, idahostatesman, "What’s behind ’60s-era paneling at El Korah Shrine? A ballroom’s worth of ’20s art.," 12 July 2018 Smith followed Lax’s prosaic specificity with great warmth and atmosphere, and by creating layers of meaning. Peter Dobrin,, "The Crossing choir premieres vivid new Kile Smith work," 1 July 2018 At this point Santat’s staid, prosaic images explode into garish, kinetic life as the two create a comic-book epic featuring a ferocious dragon and two embattled heroes modeled on themselves. John Lithgow, New York Times, "Grandmas and Grandpas Are a Kid’s Natural Allies in These Books," 22 June 2018 San Francisco has a more prosaic problem: getting the phone answered by a dispatcher promptly. Trisha Thadani,, "911, what’s your emergency? For dispatchers, it’s locating callers," 18 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'prosaic.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of prosaic

1692, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for prosaic

Late Latin prosaicus, from Latin prosa prose

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about prosaic

Listen to Our Podcast about prosaic

Dictionary Entries near prosaic








Statistics for prosaic

Last Updated

26 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for prosaic

The first known use of prosaic was in 1692

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for prosaic



English Language Learners Definition of prosaic

: dull or ordinary

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on prosaic

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with prosaic

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for prosaic

Spanish Central: Translation of prosaic

Nglish: Translation of prosaic for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of prosaic for Arabic Speakers

Comments on prosaic

What made you want to look up prosaic? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


living or existing for a long time

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!