Definition of prolepsis in English:



mass noun
  • 1Rhetoric
    The anticipation and answering of possible objections in rhetorical speech.

    • ‘For Gilio, prolepsis was a ‘figure,’ a rhetorical device employed to augment the beauty of the work.’
    • ‘Drexler's book Engines of Creation is an extraordinary exercise in prolepsis: he meticulously refutes every technical objection he can anticipate.’
    expectation, prediction, forecast
    View synonyms
  • 2The representation of a thing as existing before it actually does or did so, as in he was a dead man when he entered.

    1. 2.1literary 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’
      • ‘He falls back first on a venerable narrative device: prolepsis or foreshadowing.’


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