Printable Version
Pronunciation: pro-zay-ik Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Having the characteristics of prose as opposed to poetry. 2. Dull, pedestrian, commonplace, unimaginative.

Notes: Despite the efforts of legions of excellent novelists, prose has been tainted permanently with connotations of dullness and the commonplace that have taken over the meaning of today's word. This pejorativity has even leaked onto prosaist "writer of prose, prosaic person" to the point that a new term for a prose writer had to be acquired (from the French, as usual): prosateur. All the qualitative nouns bear the same stigma: prosaism, prosaicness, and prosaicalness all refer to dullness and boredom.

In Play: Today's Good Word has long since bolted the literary arena to romp about the general vocabulary of English: "Lida Lott came in a prosaic gray suit to help convince voters of her political savvy and gravitas." So now anything bereft of romance, beauty, and excitement may be said to be prosaic: "After jumping naked into the fountain downtown in an attempt to escape his prosaic life, Ralph found himself living an even more prosaic life in prison."

Word History: Today's Good Word came from Latin prosaicus "proselike", the adjective of prosa "straightforward (discourse)", the feminine of prosus, a reduction of proversus "turned forward", the past participle of provertere "to turn forward". This verb comprises pro "forward" + vertere "to turn". The original word that became vert- in Latin became the adverbial suffix -ward in such words as northward and homeward in English. In Russian it hardly changed: vertet' "to turn, rotate, spin". (We now turn to Lew Jury to thank him in terms, we hope, are not prosaic for suggesting today's very Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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