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 prosaic (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 This is Chung’s Americana, his Edward Hopper. Symbols of Americana in this film fluctuate between being luminous signs of abundance and prosaic residues of cheap commercialism—luxury that doubles as waste. Anne Anlin Cheng, The Atlantic, "The Double Meaning of the American Dream," 19 Feb. 2021 On top of these key imperatives, lawmakers will need to continue working to respond to social-justice issues, as well as such prosaic, yet profound, responsibilities as education, from pre-K to postgraduate. Editorial Board Star Tribune, Star Tribune, "A split in St. Paul," 4 Nov. 2020 The Himalaya that Douglas seeks to capture in this book are at once more prosaic and more fascinating than the idealized version. Akash Kapur, The New Yorker, "Can We See Past the Myth of the Himalaya?," 18 Jan. 2021 The most prosaic acts can end violently — commuting to work, visiting a friend, buying groceries, striding into a classroom. New York Times, "‘I Could Just Vanish’: In Kabul, Pocket Notes to Prevent Anonymous Death," 12 Jan. 2021 New York University professor of law Richard Epstein said Trump’s strongest defense is arguing the Senate trial is unconstitutional, but his choice of lawyer may have been dictated by more prosaic needs. Rob Crilly, Washington Examiner, "Trump cannot resist basing impeachment defense on election fraud claims," 28 Jan. 2021 This is clearly Toole’s goof on staid literary convention, but his constant need to nudge even prosaic moments toward tonal anarchy suggests a desperation to entertain at any cost. Tom Bissell, The New Yorker, "The Uneasy Afterlife of “A Confederacy of Dunces”," 5 Jan. 2021 Something as prosaic as a compost pile feeds not just the soil, but also the fertile imagination of someone like Stanley Kunitz, who spent summers working in his seaside garden in Cape Cod. Washington Post, "The symbiotic relationship between poets and the garden," 16 Dec. 2020 The New York Times request came with some prosaic conditions — 100 words or less on a newspaper deadline, a tall order for an exacting art form. Shawn Hubler, New York Times, "Verses vs. Virus: What These Poets Laureate Are Thankful For," 26 Nov. 2020

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

26 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Prosaic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Mar. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of prosaic

formal : dull or ordinary

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