Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin prosa, from feminine of prorsus, prosus, straightforward, being in prose, contraction of proversus, past participle of provertere to turn forward, from pro- forward + vertere to turn
- Date: 14th century
- b : a literary medium distinguished from poetry especially by its greater irregularity and variety of rhythm and its closer correspondence to the patterns of everyday speech
- 2 : a prosaic style, quality, or condition
Prose is the most typical form of language. The English word 'prose' is derived from the Latin prōsa, which literally translates as 'straight-forward.' While there are critical debates on the construction of prose, its simplicity and loosely defined structure has led to its adoption for the majority of spoken dialogue, factual discourse as well as topical and fictional writing. It is commonly used, for example, in literature, newspapers, magazines, encyclopedias, broadcasting, film, history, philosophy and many other forms of communication.
Prose lacks the more formal structure of a poem, in the guise of either a meter or rhyme, but instead comprises full sentences, which then constitute paragraphs. Although some works of prose do 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 fewer rules and restrictions is known as free verse. Poetry is considered to be more systematic or formulaic, whereas prose is the most reflective of ordinary speech. On this point Samuel Taylor Coleridge requested, jokingly, that novice poets should "remember my homely definitions of prose and poetry; that is, prose,—words in their best order; poetry,—the best words in their best order." In Molière's play Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, Monsieur Jourdain asked for something to be written in neither verse nor prose. A philosophy master replied that "there is no other way to express oneself than with prose or verse," for the simple reason being that "everything that is not prose is verse, and everything that is not verse is prose."