AskDefine | Define prose

Dictionary Definition



1 ordinary writing as distinguished from verse
2 matter of fact, commonplace, or dull expression

User Contributed Dictionary




From prose.


  1. Language, particularly written language, not intended as poetry.
    Though known mostly for her prose, she also produced a small body of excellent poems.

Related terms




From prosa.



fr-noun f



  1. Plural of prosa

Extensive Definition

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Prose is writing distinguished from poetry by its greater variety of rhythm and its closer resemblance to everyday speech. The word prose comes from the Latin prosa, meaning straightforward, hence the term "prosaic," which is often seen as pejorative. Prose describes the type of writing that prose embodies, unadorned with obvious stylistic devices. Prose writing is usually adopted for the description of facts or the discussion of whatever one's thoughts are, incorporated in free flowing speech. Thus, it may be used for newspapers, magazines, encyclopedias, broadcast media, films, letters, history, philosophy, biography, linguistic geography, and many other forms of communication.
Prose generally lacks the formal structure of meter or rhyme that is often found in poetry. Although some works of prose may happen to contain traces of metrical structure or versification, a conscious blend of the two forms of literature is known as a prose poem. Similarly, poetry with less of the common rules and limitations of verse is known as free verse. Poetry is considered to be artificially developed ("The best words in the best order"), whereas prose is thought to be less constructed and more reflective of ordinary speech. Pierre de Ronsard, the French poet, said that his training as a poet had proved to him that prose and poetry were mortal enemies. In Molière's play Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, Monsieur Jourdain asks something to be written in neither verse nor prose. A philosophy master says to him, "Sir, there is no other way to express oneself than with prose or verse". Jourdain replies, "By my faith! For more than forty years I have been speaking prose without knowing anything about it, and I am much obliged to you for having taught me that."


The status of prose has changed throughout its history. The early literature of many societies consists mostly of poetry. Early prose was often restricted to mundane and everyday uses, such as legal documents and yearly records. Academic subjects such as philosophy and history were generally written in prose, but fiction does not often appear in prose until much later. Poetry is still often regarded as a higher form of literature than prose, but the relatively recent development of the novel has challenged that view.
Prose was at one time synonymous with dull, unimaginative or laboured writing, and the meaning of the word "prosaic" has developed "containing or characteristic of prose" to "lacking in imagination or spirit; dull." Prose that is too ornate and overblown for its context is called purple prose.
The use of prose as opposed to poetry in Shakespeare distinguishes classes of characters in some plays, and changing mental states and moods of characters in others. In Romeo and Juliet, servants speak in prose. In Othello, Othello shifts from poetry to prose as his suspicion of Desdemona's infidelity increases. In King Lear, Lear initially speaks in verse, but shifts to prose as he is driven insane.


Prose varies considerably depending on the purpose of the writing. As prose is often considered to be representative of the patterns of normal speech , many rhetorical devices are used in prose to emphasize points and enliven the writing. Prose aims to be informative and accurate, such as history or journalism, usually striving to use the simplest language possible to express its points. Facts are often repeated and reiterated in various ways so that they are understood by a reader, but excessive use of this technique can make a serious piece of writing seem pedantic.
In fiction, prose can take on many forms. Skilled authors can alter how they use prose throughout a book to suggest different moods and ideas. A thriller often consists of short, "punchy" sentences made up of equally short words, suggesting very rapid actions to heighten the effect of a very fast-moving plot. Conversely, longer sentences can be used to slow down the action of a novel.
When a poem is translated from one language into another (particularly an epic poem) the poem is often converted into prose. Not only does this allow the reader to understand the plot more easily, but it allows the translator to exercise less unwelcome creative input. A translation should be an unchanged representation of the sense of the original; to impose the rhyme and meter structures of a different language is likely to significantly alter the poem.


The event 'Prose' in Speech/Debate is in which one person reads a selection from a published book, play, etc., and interprets the piece for the judging audience.
prose in Bosnian: Proza
prose in Breton: Komz-plaen
prose in Catalan: Prosa
prose in Cebuano: Prosa
prose in Czech: Próza
prose in Welsh: Rhyddiaith
prose in Danish: Prosa (skriveform)
prose in German: Prosa
prose in Estonian: Proosa
prose in Esperanto: Prozo
prose in Persian: نثر
prose in French: Prose
prose in Korean: 산문
prose in Hindi: गद्य
prose in Indonesian: Prosa
prose in Icelandic: Óbundið mál
prose in Italian: Prosa
prose in Hebrew: סיפורת
prose in Javanese: Gancaran
prose in Georgian: პროზა
prose in Kirghiz: Проза (кара сөз)
prose in Swahili (macrolanguage): Nathari
prose in Latin: Prosa
prose in Latvian: Proza
prose in Lithuanian: Proza
prose in Hungarian: Próza
prose in Macedonian: Проза
prose in Dutch: Proza
prose in Japanese: 散文
prose in Norwegian: Prosa
prose in Norwegian Nynorsk: Prosa
prose in Polish: Proza
prose in Portuguese: Prosa
prose in Romanian: Proză
prose in Russian: Проза
prose in Simple English: Prose
prose in Slovak: Próza
prose in Serbian: Проза
prose in Serbo-Croatian: Proza
prose in Finnish: Proosa
prose in Swedish: Prosa
prose in Turkish: Nesir
prose in Ukrainian: Проза
prose in Walloon: Prôze
prose in Yiddish: פראזע (ליטעראטור)
prose in Contenese: 散文
prose in Chinese: 散文

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

banality, bromide, causerie, chat, chestnut, chin, cliche, commonplace, commonplace expression, corn, expository writing, familiar tune, hackneyed saying, in prose, language, lieu commun, locus communis, matter of fact, matter-of-fact, matter-of-factness, nonmetrical, nonpoetic, old joke, old saw, old song, old story, plain, plainness, platitude, platitudinize, prosaic, prosaicism, prosaicness, prosaism, prosiness, prosing, prosy, rap, reiteration, retold story, stereotyped saying, talk, text, trite saying, triticism, twice-told tale, unimaginative, unimaginativeness, unimpassioned, unversified, write prose, yarn
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