• prolepsis •
pro-lep-sis • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. Taking something anticipated as already done, as in, "If you don't do what I tell you, you're dead." 2. Anticipation of a question that will likely arise from a claim, as in, "Tomorrow will be sunny. I know the weather forecast predicts rain, but the forecast is wrong more often than it is right." 3. Misstating the existence of something before its time, as the precolonial United States.
Notes: This word has found a comfortable niche in the vocabulary of rhetoric, but it might be used more often generally. Speakers often confuse dates and anticipate criticisms of what they are saying. Latinate nouns ending in -sis form adjectives by replacing the first S with T: analysis - analytic, psychosis - psychotic. Prolepsis is no exception. The adjective for this word is either proleptic or proleptical, but you can use only the latter to create an adverb: proleptically. This same group of nouns forms their plural by replacing sis with ses, so the plural of prolepsis is prolepses.
In Play: The most common use of prolepsis is in the first sense: "If I don't get this report done tonight, I'm finished at the office." However, here is an example of prolepsis in the second sense: "Now, I know what your reaction will be, honey, but I'm getting a motorcycle anyway. I'm the only one among my friends who doesn't have one."
Word History: History: Today's Good Word is a Greek word transliterated (converted letter for letter). In Greek prolepsis meant "anticipation" and is made up of pro "before" + the noun from lambanein "to take". The same root that we see in lambanein turned up in Sanskrit as labhate "seizes", in Old Church Slavonic as leca "to catch, snare", and is akin to Lithuanian lobis "possession, riches". In Old English it appeared as læccan "to seize, grasp", which made it down to us as latch. (Let us now unproleptically thank Lee Blue for suggesting today's almost forgotten Good Word.)
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