pro·​sa·​ic | \ prō-ˈzā-ik How to pronounce prosaic (audio) \

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

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Other Words from prosaic

prosaically \ prō-​ˈzā-​ə-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce prosaically (audio) \ 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.
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Recent Examples on the Web On a night that was sad and strange, inspiring and exhausting, the Lakers spent three hours paying tribute to Bryant while going about the more prosaic business of playing basketball. Scott Cacciola, New York Times, "The Lakers Remember Kobe Bryant With a Game ‘Straight From the Heart’," 1 Feb. 2020 Among historians, however, the rush to say that the past is a foreign country typically has a more prosaic meaning. Peter E. Gordon, The New York Review of Books, "Why Historical Analogy Matters," 7 Jan. 2020 Its more prosaic calamity, half a century ago, was the construction of the I-95 highway, which diverted away the traffic between Columbia and the coast that had been its lifeline. The Economist, "Pete Buttigieg’s illuminating struggle down South," 2 Jan. 2020 Although the dying stranger tale was an excellent creation myth, the more prosaic truth was that Nichols inherited the recipe from the bar’s original owners. Gary Kamiya,, "How Pisco Punch, the Holy Grail of San Francisco drinks, was lost and found," 27 Dec. 2019 As far as opening statements go, the one that Kemba Walker delivered before the game to Celtics fans was prosaic, pledging to go hard all year., "After pre-game talk, Kemba Walker walks the walk - The Boston Globe," 26 Oct. 2019 Ideas of freedom and ease persist in the more prosaic face of traffic jams and increasing fuel prices. K.s-c., The Economist, "The modern world was built in the car’s image," 25 Nov. 2019 The truth is likely both more prosaic and more wondrous, because Earth existed for a billion years before any signs of life emerged, during which the critical pieces of chemistry could have arrived at intervals on meteorites. Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics, "Did Hitchhiking Sugars on Asteroids Help Jumpstart Life on Earth?," 19 Nov. 2019 The debut of self-driving cars in Miami has been rather more prosaic than the futuristic and speedy science fiction dream. Scientific American, "Self-driving cars to test city limits," 5 Nov. 2019

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.

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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

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Time Traveler for prosaic

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The first known use of prosaic was in 1692

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Last Updated

16 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Prosaic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Feb. 2020.

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How to pronounce prosaic (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of prosaic

formal : dull or ordinary

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