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[pree-fig-yer] /priˈfɪg yər/
verb (used with object), prefigured, prefiguring.
to show or represent beforehand by a figure or type; foreshadow.
to picture or represent to oneself beforehand; imagine.
Origin of prefigure
late Middle English
1400-50; late Middle English < Late Latin praefigūrāre. See pre-, figure (v.)
Related forms
[pree-fig-yer-uh-tiv] /priˈfɪg yər ə tɪv/ (Show IPA),
prefiguratively, adverb
prefigurativeness, noun
prefigurement, noun
unprefigured, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for prefigure
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Now follows a series of miraculous signs, prodigies, mad doings, which prefigure the coming destruction.

    Homer's Odyssey Denton J. Snider
  • And now that she could begin to sit up it did prefigure recovery.

    A Little Girl in Old Salem Amanda Minnie Douglas
  • The fertile and profound fancy of Greece delighted to prefigure this truth in significant symbols and myths.

    The Religious Sentiment Daniel G. Brinton
  • Does it not prefigure the wayward and fantastic progress of a storm-tossed life?

    Z. Marcas Honore de Balzac
  • He had tried feebly to prefigure this face, but never had his visioning approached the actual in its majestic, still beauty.

    Bunker Bean Harry Leon Wilson
  • Nothing, certes, in nature can surpass this scene; no imagination can prefigure, no pen or pencil adequately portray it.

    The Roof of France Matilda Betham-Edwards
  • If Manuel had overheard, it was comparatively easy to prefigure his next step.

    The King of Arcadia Francis Lynde
  • There is no trace of a capillitium, unless a few occasional threads in the wall of Tubulina prefigure such a structure.

  • The Lyric shows how the Finite may prefigure the Infinite, by illustrations derived from science and from love.

British Dictionary definitions for prefigure


verb (transitive)
to represent or suggest in advance
to imagine or consider beforehand
Derived Forms
prefigurement, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for prefigure

early 15c., from Late Latin praefigurare "to prefigure," from Latin prae "before" (see pre-) + figurare "to form, shape," from figura "a shape, form, figure" (see figure (n.)). Related: Prefigured; prefiguring.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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