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 But for now, at least, the answer to why productivity is growing strongly is more prosaic than any new era of efficiency. Justin Lahart, WSJ, "It Isn’t a New Era for Productivity Yet," 6 May 2021 The dogma overshadowed the prosaic stuff of research. Frederick Hess, Forbes, "The American Educational Research Association Has Lost Interest In Educational Research," 28 Apr. 2021 In forcing a confrontation with these prosaic architectures of passage, liminal-space images imbue the familiar with an eerie surreality. Madelyne Xiao, The New Yorker, "The Pleasant Head Trip of Liminal Spaces," 16 Apr. 2021 Michael Friedlander, a New York architect who made inventive forms of prosaic government commissions — including a salt shed whose sharp geometric angles evoked a grain of salt — is dead at 63. Los Angeles Times, "Newsletter: Essential Arts: Homelessness in Echo Park is out of sight but not out of mind," 3 Apr. 2021 Other navigational tools are simultaneously more prosaic and more astounding. Kathryn Schulz, The New Yorker, "Why Animals Don’t Get Lost," 29 Mar. 2021 More prosaic sessions include scammy get-rich-quick pitches and endless hand-wringing about current events. Steven Levy, Wired, "The Buzzy, Chatty, Out-of-Control Rise of Clubhouse," 17 Mar. 2021 Either way, the point comes across: The basis of the Marvel Universe, however extraordinary, is prosaic everyday existence. Christopher Borrelli,, "I spent hours finding all the secrets and Easter eggs in ‘Marvel’ at the MSI. Here are 18.," 5 Mar. 2021 Conservatives in the Reaganite tradition are inclined to speak about government in a fairly prosaic, negative, and ultimately pessimistic way. Cameron Hilditch, National Review, "The Ghost of Theodore Roosevelt," 28 Feb. 2021

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

9 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Prosaic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for prosaic



English Language Learners Definition of prosaic

formal : dull or ordinary

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