pro·​sa·​ic prō-ˈzā-ik How to pronounce prosaic (audio)
: characteristic of prose as distinguished from poetry : factual
: dull, unimaginative
prosaic advice
: everyday, ordinary
heroic characters wasted in prosaic livesKirkus Reviews
prosaically adverb

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Prosaic Has Literary Origins

In the past, 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 source prosa, meaning "prose." Poetry is viewed, however, 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 The alarming rise in carjackings in Washington over the past year, a toll that nearly doubled from 2022, exposed the risks embedded in the most prosaic of everyday routines — driving home from the office or to the store; stopping at a gas station or for a red light. Paul Schwartzman, Washington Post, 22 Jan. 2024 The Compass Project, as the effort was known, would evolve from a prosaic task into a prolonged effort to heal the community. Jonathan Weisman Benjamin Rasmussen, New York Times, 30 Nov. 2023 Now, behind the nunnery’s stone walls in that flat and prosaic Midwestern hamlet, a distraught Schmidt was institutionalized for several months. TIME, 28 Oct. 2023 Much of the novel depicts, with exquisite detail, the prosaic patterns of Ruth and Lily’s home life—quotidian routines between grandmother and granddaughter that are mildly intoxicating. Jane Hu, The New Yorker, 23 Sep. 2023 But that is a prosaic reality too painful to process. Jeff Weiss, Spin, 21 Aug. 2023 But even storytellers of a more prosaic bent could learn something from Jackson’s gift for narrative elision and economy, her insistence on the primacy of the visual and her sparing use of music. Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times, 2 Nov. 2023 Dominating the New York skyline brought prestige and publicity, but tall towers also resolved a more prosaic problem: As land prices climbed, developers had to build upward to turn a profit, pushing their projects as high as engineering, natural light and, eventually, zoning would allow. Michael Snyder, Smithsonian Magazine, 25 Oct. 2023 The rest concerns family and marital relations and prosaic matters of commercial transactions and ritual. Ross McDonnell, The New Yorker, 6 Sep. 2023 See More

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

Word History


Late Latin prosaicus, from Latin prosa prose

First Known Use

1692, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of prosaic was in 1692


Dictionary Entries Near prosaic

Cite this Entry

“Prosaic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


pro·​sa·​ic prō-ˈzā-ik How to pronounce prosaic (audio)
: being dull, ordinary, or uninteresting
prosaically adverb

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