pro·​spec·​tus | \prə-ˈspek-təs, prä-\
plural prospectuses

Definition of prospectus 

1 : a preliminary printed statement that describes an enterprise (such as a business or publication) and that is distributed to prospective buyers, investors, or participants

2 : something (such as a statement or situation) that forecasts the course or nature of something

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Prospectus Is a Word for the Forward-Thinking

Like prospect, prospectus looks forward. Thus, a prospectus originally outlined something that didn't yet exist, describing what it would become. This might even be a book; the great dictionary of Noah Webster, like that of Samuel Johnson, was first announced in the form of a prospectus, so that well-to-do people might actually subscribe to it—that is, pay for it in advance so that Webster would have money to live on while writing it. Soon, prospectus was being used to mean a description of a private school or college, intended to attract new students. Today the word very often means a description of a stock offering or mutual fund, whether new or not.

Examples of prospectus in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Founded in 2010, WeWork had just 30% of IWG’s revenues in 2017 and deeply negative Ebitda, according to a recent bond prospectus. Stephen Wilmot, WSJ, "Why the Property Industry Isn’t Buying WeWork," 23 May 2018 Among the majors, Sony had the largest share in the company, with about 5.7 percent, according to Spotify’s prospectus. Ben Sisario, New York Times, "As Spotify Goes Public, Sony Cashes In," 4 Apr. 2018 The firm also wants to expand into Atlanta, according to an online prospectus seeking development partners for new hotels. Ryan Ori,, "Japanese chain takes step toward building 615-room hotel near Union Station," 13 Apr. 2018 Funds sold under the Investment Company Act of 1940 come with a summary prospectus that details the risks over a few pages., "XIV Lawsuit Shows Peril That Lurks Within Democratized Investing," 16 Mar. 2018 Bloom filed last week to go public, and a trot through its prospectus proves the point of Silicon Valley’s deserved exceptionalism. Aaron Pressman, Fortune, "Data Sheet—Why the Pride of Green Tech Startups Is Going Public," 18 June 2018 The company posted a loss of 18.99 billion yuan last year, its prospectus said. Stella Yifan Xie, WSJ, "China’s Meituan Dianping Files for IPO, Reveals Loss of Nearly $3 Billion in 2017," 25 June 2018 Cooper's firm has designed such prominent venues as an Academy of Television Arts and Sciences theater and 17 of the mixing studios that produced Academy Award nominees for sound, according to his firm’s prospectus on its website. Richard Winton,, "Architect to Hollywood stars arrested and charged with molesting two girls," 20 June 2018 According to the current prospectus, even that fund has 3% turnover per year. WSJ, "Zero-Fee Index Fund? Brokers Must Eat Too," 15 June 2018

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

1765, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for prospectus

Latin, prospect

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Last Updated

7 Nov 2018

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The first known use of prospectus was in 1765

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Financial Definition of prospectus

What It Is

A prospectus is a legal document issued by companies that are offering securities for sale. Mutual funds also provide a prospectus to potential clients, which includes a description of the fund's strategies, the manager's background, the fund's fee structure and a fund's financials statements.

How It Works

To get an idea of the role of the prospectus, let's assume Company XYZ is pursuing an IPO. Before launching the IPO, Company XYZ must first file a registration statement, which discloses all material information about the company, with the SEC. Part of the registration statement is the prospectus, which must be provided to all purchasers of the new issue.

After Company XYZ files the registration statement with the SEC for review, a cooling-off period begins. During this 20-day period, securities brokers can discuss the new IPO with clients, but the only information that can be distributed is the preliminary prospectus.

When the registration statement becomes effective, Company XYZ will amend the preliminary prospectus to add such important information as the offering price and the underwriting spread. This final prospectus must contain:

Description of the offering
History of the business
Description of management
Selling discounts
Use of proceeds
Description of the underwriting
Financial information
Risks to buyers
Legal opinion regarding the formation of the company
SEC disclaimer

When the final prospectus is released, brokers can take orders from those clients who indicated an interest during the cooling-off period. A copy of the final prospectus must precede or accompany all sales confirmations.

Why It Matters

The role of the prospectus is the make investors aware of the risks of an investment. Without this information, they would essentially have to make investments "sight unseen." This disclosure also protects the company from claims that it did not fully disclose enough information about itself or the securities in question.

Source: Investing Answers



English Language Learners Definition of prospectus

: a printed statement that describes something (such as a new business or investment) and that is sent to people who may want to be involved in it or invest in it

: a book or document that provides information about a school, business, etc.


pro·​spec·​tus | \prə-ˈspek-təs \
plural prospectuses\ -​tə-​səz \

Legal Definition of prospectus 

: a preliminary printed statement describing a business or other enterprise and distributed to prospective buyers, investors, or participants specifically : a description of a new security issue supplied to prospective purchasers and providing a disclosure of detailed information concerning the company's business and financial standing

Note: Under the Securities Act of 1933, the prospectus is part of the registration statement that must be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission before a security may be offered or sold to the public. The Securities Act defines prospectus broadly as “any prospectus, notice, circular, advertisement, letter, or communication, written or by radio or television, which offers any security for sale or confirms the sale of any security.”

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something that serves to warn or remind

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