\ ˈprōz \

Definition of prose 

(Entry 1 of 4)

1a : the ordinary language people use in speaking or writing

b : a literary medium distinguished from poetry especially by its greater irregularity and variety of rhythm and its closer correspondence to the patterns of everyday speech

2 : a dull or ordinary style, quality, or condition



Definition of prose (Entry 2 of 4)

1 : of, relating to, or written in prose

2 : prosaic


prosed; prosing

Definition of prose (Entry 3 of 4)

intransitive verb

1 : to write prose

2 : to write or speak in a dull or ordinary manner

\ ˈprō-ˈsā , -ˈsē \

Definition of pro se (Entry 4 of 4)

: on one's own behalf : without an attorney a pro se action a defendant's right to proceed pro se

Examples of prose in a Sentence


… the esteemed critic James Wood reaches out to assure "the common reader" … that his prose is as free as he can make it of what James Joyce termed "the true scholastic stink" of so much academic writing. —Walter Kirn, New York Times Book Review, 17 Aug. 2008 Like many two-person writing teams, this one produces its share of three-legged prose and redundancy. —James McManus, New York Times Book Review, 15 Apr. 2001 In my own work I felt a need to hurry from climax as in film montage, or even in Joycean prose with its strings of firecracker words … —Arthur Miller, Timebends, 1987 She writes in very clear prose.


'In the meantime,' said Traddles, coming back to his chair; 'and this is the end of my prosing about myself, I get on as well as I can. I don't make much, but I don't spend much … ' —Charles Dickens, David Copperfield, 1850

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Robertson's prose bookending conversations and introducing the combat sections is poetic and powerful, with a hint of the Mountain Goats, reaching that point of being sentimental without being treacly, tender without being purple. Julie Muncy, WIRED, "Extreme Meatpunks Forever," 11 July 2018 The hashtag, which imagines Civil War era-esque prose with a (sometimes hilarious) modern twist, seems to be in response to conservative talk show host Alex Jones, who tweeted Monday that Democrats planned to launch a civil war on July 4. Jaclyn Reiss,, "Here’s why #secondcivilwarletters is trending (and a look at some of the funniest tweets)," 3 July 2018 The thriller moves swiftly as the desperation and violence escalate, gliding by on clear, competent prose that never gets in the way. Steph Cha, USA TODAY, "Smart women get caught up in deadly intrigue in page-turning 'The Banker's Wife'," 2 July 2018 Perez's prose effectively blends the voices and the visions of the two women — one from a poor rural southern upbringing, the other who grew up poor and homeless in Milwaukee’s inner city. John Schmid, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "With childhood trauma in spotlight, Milwaukee native's book profiles woman who saves lives," 22 June 2018 Writer Dan Watters crafts the voices of the Otherworld with a dreamy prose while artist Val Rodrigues and colorist Triona Farrell make absolute beauty with pages washed in pinks that are aching to be stared at. Will Nevin,, "TBT #40: New Nancy Drew, sci-fi and more coming in comics," 13 June 2018 Fragments of dialogue spoken in Tagalog, Ilocano or Pangasinan are woven untranslated into the prose, creating authentic sensations of an immigrant’s life. Anita Felicelli, San Francisco Chronicle, "‘America Is Not the Heart,’ by Elaine Castillo," 25 May 2018 Participants may share the first page of a work in progress (prose only, fiction or nonfiction) at event check-in. Maria Shine Stewart,, "Write to your heart's content - and then some: Sun Messages," 31 Mar. 2018 The beauty of the prose, the originality of the theme, the honesty of the writer. New York Times, "Hanan al-Shaykh: By the Book," 5 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

YESTERDAY’S WORD — FORCEPS force fore fresco froe rope rose cero cope coper copse core corps corpse crop epos peso pore pose poser prose scope score serf sore spore To purchase the Word Game book, visit Kathleen Saxe, The Mercury News, "Word Game: February 08, 2017," 8 Feb. 2017

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Tae kwon do expert Zoe Zhang kicks to prose read by Taiwanese artist Aristophanes; stuntwoman Jessie Graff flies into the air as Kojey Radical reads on. Ashley Weatherford, The Cut, "Bask in the Glory of Misty Copeland Dancing to Saul Williams," 19 July 2017

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective or adverb

On his own, with no legal training, Kameny wrote and filed a pro se appeal to the Supreme Court — the first time the rights of gays, or lack thereof, were taken to the nation’s highest court. Michael S. Rosenwald, Washington Post, "The gay rights pioneer who demanded justice from the Supreme Court in 1960," 9 June 2018 Often, pro se litigants are left waiting for extended periods of time on court dockets, for instance the domestic violence docket. Nick Hollkamp, The Courier-Journal, "Voters guide: Candidates for family court and district judges," 16 May 2018 McGrath also ordered the county to repay a $25 fee a reporter paid to file the pro se lawsuit. Cory Shaffer,, "Judge orders Cuyahoga County to release video of jail guard attacking inmate," 26 Feb. 2018 For example, instead of trying to fund lawyers for litigants who might otherwise represent themselves, legal processes could be made more friendly to pro se representation. Jonathan H. Adler, WSJ, "The Case for Fewer Lawyers," 6 Sep. 2017 Aside from pro se, your options include any one of the following (or a combination thereof), in order of least to most expensive and starting at about $2,000. Charlotte Cowles, The Cut, "I Can’t Afford to Divorce My Rich Husband," 26 Oct. 2017 During courtroom proceedings, judges report, pro se litigants often fail to raise objections or properly introduce evidence. Jonathan H. Adler, WSJ, "The Case for Fewer Lawyers," 6 Sep. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'prose.' 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 prose


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Adjective or adverb

1861, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for prose


Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin prosa, from feminine of prorsus, prosus, straightforward, being in prose, contraction of proversus, past participle of provertere to turn forward, from pro- forward + vertere to turn — more at pro-, worth


see prose entry 1


see prose entry 1

Adjective or adverb


Adverb or adjective


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Statistics for prose

Last Updated

27 Aug 2018

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Time Traveler for prose

The first known use of prose was in the 14th century

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English Language Learners Definition of prose

: writing that is not poetry : ordinary writing


\ ˈprōz \

Kids Definition of prose

1 : the ordinary language that people use in speaking or writing

2 : writing without the repeating rhythm that is used in poetry

\ ˈprō-ˈsā, -ˈsē \

Legal Definition of pro se 

: on one's own behalf : without an attorney a defendant's right to proceed pro se a pro se action

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