Definition of prove in US English:



  • 1with object Demonstrate the truth or existence of (something) by evidence or argument.

    ‘the concept is difficult to prove’
    • ‘It emphasised that ‘the courts are not the place to prove new medical truths’.’
    • ‘Truth is established by proving theory through observation and then having the results confirmed by peers.’
    • ‘Nonetheless he had proven his leadership ability and his political skill in ending the civil war.’
    • ‘The scenes are intended to prove the soundness and truth of what has been previously said.’
    • ‘In the face of war and mass slaughter, he has proved it retains the ability to shock us with the sheer frivolity of its efforts in futility.’
    • ‘He even produced a document proving it, though no one else knew of its existence.’
    • ‘The ability to deliver and prove high levels of performance is no longer just a competitive advantage.’
    • ‘Bonnet used Codazzi's formulas to prove the existence theorem in the theory of surfaces.’
    • ‘An indictment is far from a conviction but as Martin Kramer points out, this refusal to recognise inconvenient truths is also proving an indictment on their claims of expertise.’
    • ‘How I got in is not something I'm willing to disclose, but I have the documentary evidence to prove it.’
    • ‘The Authority said it is very difficult to prove the existence of a cartel and pledged to monitor the situation in the town.’
    • ‘Illuminating reality without recourse to truth is proving a difficult proposition.’
    • ‘The French working class has repeatedly proved its readiness and ability to fight for its democratic and social rights in the past.’
    • ‘Finally, we are not content with a mere definition of truth; we seek a method of establishing the truth and proving its correctness.’
    • ‘Andrew McLoughlin proved his dead-ball abilities with a cross from the right which fell to McTiernan on the near post.’
    • ‘Barrett proved his dead-eye shooting ability as he sunk score after score for his side.’
    • ‘But every inductive argument that proves its conclusion presupposes the truth of the law of causation.’
    • ‘The person said that telling lies will get us nowhere and we're better off telling the truth and proving it.’
    • ‘He believes he has proven his strength and ability to be an independent voice on the Council.’
    • ‘With highlife, African music had proved its resilience and ability to absorb and synthesise foreign influences.’
    demonstrate, show, show beyond doubt, show to be true, manifest, produce proof, submit proof, produce evidence, submit evidence, establish evidence, evince
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    1. 1.1Law Establish the genuineness and validity of (a will).
      • ‘I'm sure he was wondering who could prove it up, and I started thinking I was going to be called as an adverse witness.’
      • ‘The Moores stayed on the homestead long enough to prove it up and get title which would be three years.’
  • 2with object and complement Demonstrate to be the specified thing by evidence or argument.

    ‘innocent until proven guilty’
    • ‘I've always thought that Scott's innocent until he's proven guilty and I'm going to stick with that.’
    • ‘In Indiana you are guilty until you are proven innocent, and with that in mind you can keep the skater out of the streets but you cannot keep the street out of the skater.’
    • ‘We have to remember that this man is innocent until proven guilty but if he did kill Caroline we have to make sure he doesn't kill anyone else.’
    • ‘And if there is a mitochondrial DNA match - I'm a firm believer in DNA, if it proves you guilty or innocent.’
    • ‘I'm convinced to this point, and I am a firm believer in DNA, whether it proves you guilty or innocent.’
    • ‘Of course, remembering that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, perhaps the answer to my questions is that Libby was not stupid and was not lying to the Grand Jury.’
    • ‘And the last I checked, in the United States, you are innocent until you're proven guilty.’
    • ‘Of course, the accused man is assumed to be innocent until the prosecution can prove him guilty.’
    • ‘He's, of course, innocent until proven guilty.’
    • ‘Drugs testing policy usually prevents disclosure of a player's identity until he is proven guilty and a punishment has been decided.’
    1. 2.1no object, with complement Be seen or found to be.
      ‘the plan has proved a great success’
      • ‘While massive amounts of US air power could bring tactical victories, achieving strategic victory proved to be more difficult.’
      • ‘Completeness, however, is an elusive goal and proves quite difficult to achieve in the arena of electronic state government information.’
      • ‘If the scheme proves successful the police hope to run surgeries at the town's other secondary schools.’
      • ‘The big striker, who moves with intent rather than rather than noticeable impetus, said afterwards that his second goal had proved crucial.’
      • ‘An own goal from Nigel Wright proved costly as Duncombe Park lost 2-1 to Amotherby and Swinton in division two.’
      • ‘Optimism proved short-lived, though, as Sheffield scored twice more to earn a convincing victory.’
      • ‘Killarney Celtic, have been impressive, with some fine performances and they don't concede too many goals and are proving difficult to breach.’
      • ‘But he was determined to prove he could achieve success somehow - and eventually he did.’
      • ‘The 150 original settlement master plans proved difficult to get hold of.’
      • ‘Nevertheless, tight glycaemic control has proved difficult to achieve in clinical practice.’
      • ‘Employees may be able to complain to the pensions ombudsman that the scheme was maladministered, but this may be difficult to prove.’
      • ‘Root-and-branch reform of the NHS, and education, is proving difficult to achieve.’
      • ‘In the return leg at the Tatran Stadium another Nixon goal proved insufficient as a Vladislav Zvara brace took the Slovakians through.’
      • ‘At this stage, the rehabilitation plan proved to be successful and the patient was found fit to undergo plastic surgery.’
      • ‘The maintenance of downwards accountability to local communities by the NHS has generally proved difficult to achieve.’
      • ‘In the final analysis that lone goal proved to be the all important score of a game that was hard fought but which only produced moderate fare throughout.’
      • ‘If the scheme proves to be successful, and householders who are given the brown bins use them for their garden waste, there is a chance the scheme will be extended when it is reviewed after three years.’
      • ‘The parking is fully supervised and if the scheme proves successful the feasibility of a more permanent facility will be investigated.’
      • ‘This is the third year of the book scheme and it has proved very successful as it greatly reduces the financial burden on parents.’
      • ‘If that bid and their offer to take over the football club proves successful, their plan would see City continuing to play at Bootham Crescent until a new home is built.’
      turn out, be found, happen
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    2. 2.2prove oneself Demonstrate one's abilities or courage.
      ‘a new lieutenant, very green and very desperate to prove himself’
      • ‘You may find yourself in circumstances where you need to prove yourself, and you may end up feeling that your ability to cope is being tested at times.’
      • ‘Gavin has proved himself a man of great ability and potential.’
      • ‘His batting ability is well known, but he has also proved himself an excellent one-day bowler, and has a shrewd tactical brain.’
      • ‘He was rather amazed at her abilities to have such power without really having to prove herself.’
      • ‘The intelligence agencies, humiliated by their failure to forestall the attacks, are desperate to prove themselves.’
      • ‘It has seemed like an eternity as I've been desperate to get out on to that track and prove myself again at world level.’
      • ‘He says the Executive and SE are right to concentrate on specific business areas, such as life sciences, in which the country has proved itself to have some ability.’
      • ‘He's so desperate to prove himself and make his own way in the world that he lashes out at everyone.’
      • ‘In this dire situation, she proves herself to be a courageous and determined fighter.’
      • ‘He is desperate to prove himself, but may have to wait until later in the season to get the chance.’
      demonstrate one's abilities, demonstrate one's courage, demonstrate one's qualities, show one's mettle, show one's true mettle, show what one is made of
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    3. 2.3rare with object Test the accuracy of (a mathematical calculation).
      • ‘In 1925 he proved the Krull-Schmidt theorem for decomposing abelian groups of operators.’
      • ‘Once academic scientific studies were established they rejected and ridiculed anything spiritual or metaphysical if it could not be proven by a mathematical formula.’
      • ‘What no one is yet prepared to do is go on record as saying he has proved the Poincare Conjecture.’
      • ‘She proves a well known (to mathematicians!) theorem of homological algebra.’
      • ‘There is a theorem proved by Kurt Godel in 1931, which is the Incompleteness Theorem for mathematics.’
  • 3no object (of bread dough) become aerated by the action of yeast; rise.

    • ‘Prove dough for 60-90 minutes until dough passes the finger-tip test.’
    • ‘Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave to prove for about two hours in a warm area.’
    • ‘When making bread with the fermented dough, the dough must be removed from the fridge at least 2 hours in advance, to allow it to prove.’
  • 4with object Subject (a gun or other item) to a testing process.

    • ‘Proof marks indicate the soundness of the gun when it was last proved, but the gun may have been so altered that it is unproved in its present state.’
    • ‘Each gun is thoroughly proved before it leaves the factory.’
  • 5with object (in homeopathy) demonstrate the action of (a remedy) by seeing what effect it produces in a healthy individual.


For complex historical reasons, prove developed two past participles: proved and proven. Both are correct and can be used more or less interchangeably: this hasn't been proved yet; this hasn't been proven yet. Proven is the more common form when used as an adjective before the noun it modifies: a proven talent (not a proved talent). Otherwise, the choice between proved and proven is not a matter of correctness, but usually of sound and rhythm—and often, consequently, a matter of familiarity, as in the legal idiom innocent until proven guilty


Middle English: from Old French prover, from Latin probare ‘test, approve, demonstrate’, from probus ‘good’.