Definition of prolepsis in English:


Line breaks: pro|lep¦sis
Pronunciation: /prəʊˈlɛpsɪs
, -ˈliːpsɪs/

noun (plural prolepses /-siːz/)

[mass noun]
  • 1 Rhetoric The anticipation and answering of possible objections in rhetorical speech.
    More example sentences
    • Drexler's book Engines of Creation is an extraordinary exercise in prolepsis: he meticulously refutes every technical objection he can anticipate.
    • For Gilio, prolepsis was a ‘figure,’ a rhetorical device employed to augment the beauty of the work.
  • 2The representation of a thing as existing before it actually does or did so, as in he was a dead man when he entered.
  • 2.1 literary A figurative device in narrative, in which a future event is prefigured: the destruction of the Vendôme Column and his part in it are foreshadowed in moments of haunting prolepsis
    More example sentences
    • He falls back first on a venerable narrative device: prolepsis or foreshadowing.



More example sentences
  • The anti-Arcadian proleptic elegies of the late 1930s, in other words, and the critique of consolatory language they offer, can be said to have opened up a path toward the welfare state.
  • Anticipation is intuitively, ironically proleptic in that it both foresees things in their absence and, in the very act of apprehension, presents them unwittingly into being.
  • In formulation, the utterance is predictive or proleptic (he will imminently pour himself a drink, check the contents of the bottle).


late Middle English (as a term in rhetoric): via late Latin from Greek prolēpsis, from prolambanein 'anticipate', from pro 'before' + lambanein 'take'.

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