Printable Version
Pronunciation: pree-pahs-têr-ês Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Outlandish, inconceivable, outrageous, perversely absurd, way, way, way beyond the bounds of reason in violation of all the laws of nature and logic. 2. (Rare) In inverted or reverse order, what should be in first place in last place, having the cart before the horse.

Notes: Have you ever wondered what preposterous things become later on, once they become really "posterous"? Today's word is what I call a "curve word" since, like a curve ball in baseball, it isn't what it seems to be. We are right to separate the prefix pre-, but if we do so, we also have to separate post for reasons the Word History will make clear. The adverb here is preposterously, and the only noun we have is preposterousness.

In Play: In order to use today's Good Word accurately, its reference must be outlandishly absurd: "When I said that the boss's idea of manufacturing helicopter ejection seats was preposterous, everyone at the conference table glared at me." If you know someone else who subscribes to our Good Words, you can also use the original meaning (2. above) of this word when speaking with them: "Billy ran to his favorite hideaway in the cave, but his parents discovered him by following his footprints preposterously."

Word History: Today's Good Word comes from Latin praeposterus "in reverse order, perverse", made up of pre- "before" + posterus "behind". Posterus was derived from post "after", found in several phrases borrowed from Latin, such as post hoc "after the fact", ex post facto "retroactively", and post war "after the war". The prefix pre- "before" in Latin came from the same source as English fore in, well, before, as well as forecast, foretell, and forebode. Post presumably came from PIE pos- "after, behind", seen also in Russian pozdno "late" and Lithuanian pãskui "after(wards)".

Dr. Goodword,

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