pros·​trate | \ ˈprä-ˌstrāt How to pronounce prostrate (audio) \

Definition of prostrate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : stretched out with face on the ground in adoration or submission also : lying flat
2 : completely overcome and lacking vitality, will, or power to rise was prostrate from the heat
3 : trailing on the ground : procumbent prostrate shrubs


pros·​trate | \ ˈprä-ˌstrāt How to pronounce prostrate (audio) , especially British prä-ˈstrāt \
prostrated; prostrating

Definition of prostrate (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to throw or put into a prostrate position
2 : to put (oneself) in a humble and submissive posture or state the whole town had to prostrate itself in official apology— Claudia Cassidy
3 : to reduce to submission, helplessness, or exhaustion was prostrated with grief

Synonyms & Antonyms for prostrate

Synonyms: Adjective

Synonyms: Verb

Antonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Verb

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Choose the Right Synonym for prostrate


prone, supine, prostrate, recumbent mean lying down. prone implies a position with the front of the body turned toward the supporting surface. push-ups require a prone position supine implies lying on one's back and suggests inertness or abjectness. lying supine on the couch prostrate implies lying full-length as in submission, defeat, or physical collapse. a runner fell prostrate at the finish line recumbent implies the posture of one sleeping or resting. a patient comfortably recumbent in a hospital bed

The Difference Between Prone, Supine, and Prostrate


In literal use, prone and supine indicate contrasting positions of the body: a person lying prone is facing downward while a person lying supine is face up.

Both prone and supine also have meanings that have nothing to do with physical position. Supine, in keeping with the image of one lying comfortably idle, can be applied to those who are willing to be controlled by others, or who show mental or moral slackness, as in "supine obedience" or "supine inaction."

Prone is used in the sense of "having a tendency or inclination," as in "prone to worry" or "accident-prone." This usage is similar to such words as apt, liable, or likely (as in "apt to be late"), but in many instances prone implies a vulnerability to attack or damaging influence, in keeping with the image of one lying face down and unable to see what is approaching.

The word prostrate too has meanings to do with body position. It is used with the very specific meaning of "stretched out with face on the ground in adoration or submission," but is also used simply to mean "lying flat." In figurative use, prostrate means "completely overcome and lacking vitality, will, or power to rise," as in "prostrate in fear."

So while prone, supine, and prostrate have specific meanings with regard to body position, they also come with situational connotations in many cases: prone suggests exposure or vulnerability; supine connotes a position of weakness or passivity; and prostrate implies submission in the face of being overcome.

Examples of prostrate in a Sentence

Adjective The police found the body in a prostrate position. She was lying prostrate on the bed. They were prostrate from the heat. Verb an athlete prostrated for weeks by a bout of pneumonia the huge increase in gas prices really prostrated the nation's economic engine
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective An excellent prostrate variety well suited to rockeries and pathways. Dennis Peck, oregonlive, 14 Aug. 2022 Johnson then stood over the prostrate Davis and fired two more times into his head, prosecutors said. Washington Post, 5 Apr. 2022 As a prostrate Johnson held his head in both hands in disbelief, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich chose to hold his head high. Jeff Mcdonald, San Antonio Express-News, 31 Mar. 2022 Environmentalists have long pushed for prostrate milkweed protection under the Endangered Species Act. Li Cohen, CBS News, 15 Feb. 2022 Most were silently prostrate on their backs, their paws limp in the air, passed out in the nearly 100-degree heat. New York Times, 19 Jan. 2022 Thomas Hayer, a twenty-two-year-old member of the Newark Mosque, fired insurance rounds at the prostrate Malcolm, hitting him in his left ankle. Les Payne, The New Yorker, 27 Aug. 2020 The question is never just a question; the subject is helpless to her storytelling, a rigorous empathy that was like refuge to the Duke and Duchess, who have long been prostrate to the narratives of the tabloids. Doreen St. Félix, The New Yorker, 8 Mar. 2021 The doctor leaves his dead son and prostrate wife to go with the excited young man. Kurt Vonnegut, The New Yorker, 23 Nov. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Cheney’s once promising career in the House of Representatives was over, at least for now, a casualty of her refusal to prostrate herself at the altar of Trump. Susan B. Glasser, The New Yorker, 18 Aug. 2022 His father merely wanted Mugur to prostrate himself with repentance and patriotic vows. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 8 Nov. 2021 Local officials across hard-knock America prostrate themselves for a chance to host it. Vauhini Vara, The Atlantic, 12 Feb. 2021 Such actions are unprecedented in Thailand, where those waiting for a royal motorcade regularly sit on the ground or prostrate themselves. Grant Peck And Chris Blake, The Christian Science Monitor, 15 Oct. 2020 Naird’s situation is of a man with ramrod-straight posture prostrated and disarrayed at many odd angles. Troy Patterson, The New Yorker, 28 May 2020 That same confidence is also what led Minlend to prostrate on the court, dejected, after USF’s season came to a close with a narrow loss to juggernaut Gonzaga on March 9. Hayes Gardner, The Courier-Journal, 15 Apr. 2020 During that service, in a sign of humble obedience, Francis prostrated himself for a few minutes on the basilica floor. NBC News, 11 Apr. 2020 But my resolution wasn’t a self-righteous, self-prostrating chore. Max De Haldevang, Quartz, 27 Dec. 2019 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'prostrate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of prostrate


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for prostrate


Middle English prostrat, from Anglo-French, from Latin prostratus, past participle of prosternere, from pro- before + sternere to spread out, throw down — more at strew

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Time Traveler for prostrate

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

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Dictionary Entries Near prostrate



prostrate juniper

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Statistics for prostrate

Last Updated

17 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Prostrate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Oct. 2022.

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More Definitions for prostrate


pros·​trate | \ ˈprä-ˌstrāt How to pronounce prostrate (audio) \

Kids Definition of prostrate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : lying with the face turned toward the ground
2 : lacking strength or energy I'm prostrate with a cold.


prostrated; prostrating

Kids Definition of prostrate (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : lie on the ground with the face down Worshippers prostrated themselves on the ground.
2 : to bring to a weak and powerless condition The widow was prostrated with grief.


pros·​trate | \ ˈpräs-ˌtrāt How to pronounce prostrate (audio) \

Medical Definition of prostrate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: completely overcome was prostrate from the heat


transitive verb
prostrated; prostrating

Medical Definition of prostrate (Entry 2 of 2)

: to put into a state of extreme bodily exhaustion prostrated by fever

More from Merriam-Webster on prostrate

Nglish: Translation of prostrate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of prostrate for Arabic Speakers


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