an extensive, level or slightly undulating, mostly treeless tract of land in the Mississippi valley, characterized by a highly fertile soil and originally covered with coarse grasses, and merging into drier plateaus in the west.
tract of level or undulating grassland in N.Amer., 1773, from Fr. prairie, from O.Fr. praerie (12c.), from V.L. *prataria, from L. pratum "meadow," originally "a hollow." The word existed in M.E. as prayere, but was lost and reborrowed to describe the American plains. Prairie dog is attested from 1774; prairie schooner "immigrant's wagon" is from 1841.