Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary



PRETERIMPERFECT, a. [beyond or beside unfinished.] In grammar, designating the tense which expresses action or being not perfectly past; an awkward epithet, very ill applied.

PRETERIT, a. [L. proeteritus, proetereo; proeter, beyond, and eo, to go.] Past; applied to the tense in grammar which expresses an action or being perfectly past or finished, often that which is just past or completed, but without a specification of time. It is called also the perfect tense; as, scripsi, I have written. We say, “I have written a letter to my correspondent;” in which sentence, the time is supposed to be not distant and not specified. But when the time is mentioned, we use the imperfect tense so called; as, “I wrote to my correspondent yesterday.” In this use of the preterit or perfect tense, the English differs from the French, in which j’ai ecrit heir, is correct; but I have written yesterday, would be very bad English.

PRETERITION, n. [L. proeterio, to pass by.]

1. The act of going past; the state of being past.

2. In rhetoric, a figure by which, in pretending to pass over any thing, we make a summary mention of it; as, “I will not say, he is valiant, he is learned, he is just,” etc. The most artful praises are those bestowed by way of preterition.

PRETERITNESS, n. [from preterit.] The state of being past. [Little used.]

PRETERLAPSED, a. [L. proeterlapsus, proeterlabor; proeter and labor, to glide.] Past; gone by; as preterlapsed ages.

PRETERLEGAL, a. [L. proeter and legal.] Exceeding the limits of law; not legal. [Little used.]

PRETERMISSION, n. [L. proetermissio, from proetermitto.]

A passing by; omission.

1. In rhetoric, the same as preterition.

PRETERMIT, v.t. [L. proetermitto; proeter, beyond, and mitto, to send.] To pass by; to omit.

PRETERNATURAL, a. [L. proeter and natural.] Beyond what is natural, or different from what is natural; irregular. We call those events in the physical world preternatural, which are extraordinary, which are deemed to be beyond or without the ordinary course of things, and yet are not deemed miraculous; in distinction from events which are supernatural, which cannot be produced by physical laws or powers, and must therefore be produced by a direct exertion of omnipotence. We also apply the epithet to things uncommon or irregular; as a preternatural swelling; a preternatural pulse; a preternatural excitement or temper.

PRETERNATURALITY, n. Preternaturalness. [Little used.]

PRETERNATURALLY, adv. In a manner beyond or aside from the common order of nature; as vessels of the body preternaturally distended.

PRETERNATURALNESS, n. A state or manner different from the common order of nature.

PRETERPERFECT, a. [L. proeter and perfectus.] Literally, more than complete or finished; an epithet equivalent to preterit, applied to the tense of verbs which expresses action or being absolutely past. [Grammar.]

PRETERPLUPERFECT, a. [L. proeter, beyond, plus, more, and perfectus, perfect.] Literally, beyond more than perfect; an epithet designating the tense of verbs which expresses action or being past prior to another past event or time; better denominated the prior past tense, that is, past prior to another event.

PRETEX, v.t. [L. proetexo; proe and texo, or tego, texui.]

To cloak; to conceal. [Not used.]

PRETEXT, n. [L. proetextus.] Pretense; false appearance; ostensible reason or motive assigned or assumed as a color or cover for the real reason or motive. He gave plausible reasons for this conduct, but these were only a pretext to conceal his real motives.

He made pretext that I should only go

And help convey his freight; but thought not so.

They suck the blood of those they depend on, under a pretext of service and kindness.

PRETOR, n. [L. proetor, from the root of proe, before.]

Among the ancient Romans, a judge; an officer answering to the modern chief justice or chancellor, or to both. In later times, subordinate judges appointed to distribute justice in the provinces, were created and called pretors or provincial pretors. These assisted the consuls in the government of the provinces.

In modern times, the word is sometimes used for a mayor or magistrate.

PRETORIAL, a. Pertaining to a pretor or judge; judicial.

PRETORIAN, a. Belonging to a pretor or judge; judicial; exercised by the pretor; as pretorian power or authority.

Pretorian bands or guards, in Roman history, were the emperor’s guards. Their number was ultimately increased to ten thousand men.

PRETORSHIP, n. The office of pretor.

PRETTILY, adv. prit’tily. [from pretty.] In a pretty manner; with neatness and taste; pleasingly; without magnificence or splendor; as a woman prettily dressed; a parterre prettily ornamented with flowers.

1. With decency, good manners and decorum without dignity.

Children kept out of ill company, take a price to behave themselves prettily.

PRETTINESS, n. prit’tiness. [from pretty.]

1. Diminutive beauty; a pleasing form without stateliness or dignity; as the prettiness of the face; the prettiness of a bird or other small animal; the prettiness of dress.

2. Neatness and taste displayed on small objects; as the prettiness of a flower bed.

3. Decency of manners; pleasing propriety without dignity or elevation; as the prettiness of a child’d behavior.

PRETTY, a. prit’ty.

1. Having diminutive beauty; of a pleasing form with the strong lines of beauty, or without gratefulness and dignity; as a pretty face; a pretty person; a pretty flower.

The pretty gentleman is the most complaisant creature in the world.

That which is little can be but pretty, and by claiming dignity becomes ridiculous.

2. Neat and appropriate without magnificence or splendor; as a pretty dress.

3. Handsome; neatly arranged or ornamented; as a pretty flower bed.

4. Neat; elegant without elevation or grandeur; as a pretty tale or story; a pretty song or composition.

5. Sly; crafty; as, he has played his friend a pretty trick. This seems to be the sense of the word in this phrase, according with the Saxon proetig. And hence perhaps the phrase, a pretty fellow.

6. Small; diminutive; in contempt. He will make a pretty figure in a triumph.

7. Not very small; moderately large; as a pretty way off.

Cut off the stalks of cucumbers immediately after their bearing, close by the earth, and then cast a pretty quantity of earth upon the plant, and they will bear next year before the ordinary time. [Not in use.]

PRETTY, adv. prit’ty. In some degree; tolerably; moderately; as a farm pretty well stocked; the colors became pretty vivid; I am pretty sure of the fact; the wind is pretty fair. The English farthing is pretty near the value of the American cent. In these and similar phrases, pretty expresses less than very.

The writer pretty plainly professes himself a sincere christian.

PRETYPIFIED, pp. [from pretypify.] Antecedently represented by type; prefigured.

PRETYPIFY, v.t. [pre and typify.] To prefigure; to exhibit previously in a type.

PRETYPIFYING, ppr. Prefiguring.

PREVAIL, v.i. [L. proevaleo; proe, before, and valeo, to be strong or well. Valeo seems to be from the same root as the Eng. well. The primary sense is to stretch or strain forward, to advance.]

1. To overcome; to gain the victory or superiority; to gain the advantage.

When Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed; when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. Exodus 17:11.

With over or against.

David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone. 1 Samuel 17:50.

This kingdom could never prevail against the united power of England.

2. To be in force; to have effect; power or influence.

This custom makes the short-sighted bigots and the warier skeptics, as far as ir prevails.

3. To be predominant; to extend over with force or effect. The fever prevailed in a great part of the city.

4. To gain or have predominant influence; to operate with effect. These reasons, arguments or motives ought to prevail with all candid men. In this sense, it is followed by with.

5. To persuade or induce; with on or upon. They prevailed on the president to ratify the treaty. It is also followed by with. They could not prevail with the king to pardon the offender. But on is more common in modern practice.

6. To succeed. The general attempted to take the fort by assault, but did not prevail. The most powerful arguments were employed, but they did not prevail.

PREVAILING, ppr. Gaining advantage, superiority or victory; having effect; persuading; succeeding.

1. a. Predominant; having more influence; prevalent; superior in power. The love of money and the love of power are the prevailing passions of men.

2. Efficacious.

Saints shall assist thee with prevailing prayers.

3. Predominant; most general; as the prevailing disease of a climate; a prevailing opinion. Intemperance is the prevailing vice of many countries.

PREVAILMENT, a. Prevalence. [Little used.]

PREVALENCE, PREVALENCY, n. Superior strength, influence or efficacy; most efficacious force in producing an effect.

The duke better knew what kind of arguments were of prevalence with him.

1. Predominance; most general reception or practice; as the prevalence of vice, or of corrupt maxims; the prevalence of opinion or fashion.

2. Most general existence or extension; as, the prevalence of a disease.

3. Success; as the prevalence of prayer.

PREVALENT, a. Gaining advantage or superiority; victorious.

Brennus told the Roman embassadors, that prevalent arms were as good as any title.

1. Powerful; efficacious; successful; as prevalent supplications.

2. Predominant; most generally received or current; as a prevalent opinion.

3. Predominant; most general; extensively existing; as a prevalent disease.

PREVALENTLY, adv. With predominance or superiority; powerfully.

The evening star so falls into the main

To rise at morn more prevalently bright.

PREVARICATE, v.i. [L. proevaricor; proe and varico, varicor, to straddle.]

1. To shuffle; to quibble; to shift or turn from one side to the other, from the direct course or from truth; to play foul play.

I would think better of himself, than that he would wilfully prevaricate.

2. In the civil law, to collude; as where an informer colludes with the defendant, and makes a sham prosecution.

3. In English law, to undertake a thing falsely and deceitfully, with the purpose of defeating or destroying it.

PREVARICATE, v.t. To pervert; to corrupt; to evade by a quibble. [But in a transitive sense, this word is seldom or never used.]

PREVARICATION, n. A shuffling or quibbling to evade the truth or the disclosure of truth; the practice of some trick for evading what is just or honorable; a deviation from the plain path of truth and fair dealing.

1. In the civil law, the collusion of an informer with the defendant, for the purpose of making a sham prosecution.

2. In common law, a seeming to undertake a thing falsely or deceitfully, for the purpose of defeating or destroying it.

3. A secret abuse in the exercise of a public office or commission.

PREVARICATOR, n. One that prevaricates; a shuffler; a quibbler.

1. A sham dealer; one who colludes with a defendant in a sham prosecution.

2. One who abuses his trust.

PREVENE, v.t. [L. proevenio; proe, before, and venio, to come.]

Literally, to come before; hence, to hinder. [Not used.]

PREVENIENT, a. [L. proeveniens.] Going before; preceding; hence, preventive; as prevenient grace.

PREVENT, v.t. [L. proevenio, supra.]

1. To go before; to precede.

I prevented the dawning of the morning, and cried. Psalm 119:147.

2. To precede, as something unexpected or unsought.

The days of my affliction prevented me. Job 30:27; 2 Samuel 22:6, 19.

3. To go before; to precede; to favor by anticipation or by hindering distress or evil.

The God of my mercy shall prevent me. Psalm 59:10.

Prevent us, O Lord, in all our doings, with thy most gracious favor.

4. To anticipate.

Their ready guilt preventing thy commands.

5. To preoccupy; to pre-engage; to attempt first.

Thou hast prevented us with overtures of love.

[In all the preceding senses, the word is obsolete.]

6. To hinder; to obstruct; to intercept the approach or access of. This is now the only sense. No foresight or care will prevent every misfortune. Religion supplies consolation under afflictions which cannot be prevented. It is easier to prevent an evil than to remedy it.

Too great confidence in success, is the likeliest to prevent it.

PREVENT, v.i. To come before the usual time. [Not in use.]

PREVENTABLE, a. That may be prevented or hindered.

PREVENTED, pp. Hindered from happening or taking effect.

PREVENTER, n. One that goes before. [Not in use.]

1. One that hinders; a hinderer; that which hinders; as a preventer of evils or of disease.

PREVENTING, ppr. Going before.

1. Hindering; obviating.

PREVENTINGLY, adv. In such a manner or way as to hinder.

PREVENTION, n. The act of going before.

1. Preoccupation; anticipation. [Little used.]

2. The act of hindering; hinderance; obstruction of access or approach.

Prevention of sin is one of the greatest mercies God can vouchsafe.

3. Prejudice; prepossession; a French sense, but not in use in English.

PREVENTIONAL, a. Tending to prevent.

PREVENTIVE, a. Tending to hinder; hindering the access of; as a medicine preventive of disease.

PREVENTIVE, n. That which prevents; that which intercepts the access or approach of. Temperance and exercise are excellent preventives of debility and languor.

1. An antidote previously taken. A medicine may be taken as a preventive of disease.

PREVENTIVELY, adv. By way of prevention; in a manner that tends to hinder.

PREVIOUS, a. [L. proevius; proe, before, and via, way, that is, a going.] Going before in time; being or happening before something else; antecedent; prior; as a previous intimation of a design; a previous notion; a previous event.

Sound from the mountain, previous to the storm,

Rolls o’er the muttering earth.

PREVIOUSLY, adv. In time preceding; beforehand; antecedently; as a plan previously formed.

PREVIOUSNESS, n. Antecedence; priority in time.

PREVISION, n. s as z. [L. proevisus, proevideo; proe, before, and video, to see.] Foresight; foreknowledge; prescience.

PREWARN, v.t. [See Warn.]

To warn beforehand; to give previous notice of.

PREY, n. [L. proeda.]

1. Spoil; booty; plunder; goods taken by force from an enemy in war.

And they brought the captives and the prey and the spoil to Moses and Eleazar the priest. Numbers 31:12.

In this passage, the captives are distinguished from prey. But sometimes persons are included.

They [Judah] shall become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies. 2 Kings 21:14.

2. That which is seized or may be seized by violence to be devoured; ravine. The eagle and the hawk dart upon their prey.

She sees herself the monster’s prey.

The old lion perisheth for lack of prey. Job 4:11.

3. Ravage; depredation.

Hog in sloth, fox in stealth, lion in prey.

Animal or beast of prey, is a carnivorous animal; one that feeds on the flesh of other animals. The word is applied to the larger animals, as lions, tigers, hawks, vultures, etc. rather than to insects; yet an insect feeding on other insects may be called an animal of prey.

PREY, v.i. To prey on or upon, is to rob; to plunder; to pillage.

1. To feed by violence, or to seize and devour. The wolf preys on sheep; the hawk preys on chickens.

2. To corrode; to waste gradually; to cause to pine away. Grief preys on the body and spirits; envy and jealousy prey on the health.

Language is too faint to show

His rage of love; it preys upon his life;

He pines, he sickens, he despairs, he dies.

PREYER, n. He or that which preys; a plunderer; a waster; a devourer.

PREYING, ppr. Plundering; corroding; wasting gradually.

PRICE, n. [L. pretium. See Praise.]

1. The sum or amount of money at which a thing is valued, or the value which a seller sets on his goods in market. A man often sets a price on goods which he cannot obtain, and often takes less than the price set.

2. The sum or equivalent given for an article sold; as the price paid for a house, an ox or a watch.

3. The current value or rate paid for any species of goods; as the market price of wheat.

4. Value; estimation; excellence; worth.

Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. Proverbs 31:10.

5. Reward; recompense.

That vice may merit; ‘tis the price of toil;

The knave deserves it when he tills the soil.

The price of redemption, is the atonement of Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 6:20.

A price in the hands of a fool, the valuable offers of salvation, which he neglects. Proverbs 17:16.

PRICE, v.t. To pay for. [Not in use.]

1. To set a price on. [See Prize.]

PRICELESS, a. Invaluable; too valuable to admit of a price.

1. Without value; worthless or unsalable.

PRICK, v.t.

1. To pierce with a sharp pointed instrument or substance; as, to prick one with a pin, a needle, a thorn or the like.

2. To erect a pointed thing, or with an acuminated point; applied chiefly to the ears, and primarily to the pointed ears of an animal. The horse pricks his ears, or pricks up his ears.

3. To fix by the point; as, to prick a knife into a board.

4. To hang on a point.

The cooks prick a slice on a prong of iron.

5. To designate by a puncture or mark.

Some who are pricked for sheriffs, and are fit, set out of the bill.

6. To spur; to goad; to incite; sometimes with on or off.

My duty pricks me on to utter that

Which no worldly good should draw from me.

But how if honor prick me off.

7. To affect with sharp pain; to sting with remorse.

When they heard this, they were pricked in their hearts. Acts 2:37; Psalm 73:21.

8. To make acid or pungent to the taste; as, wine is pricked.

9. To write a musical composition with the proper notes on a scale.

10. In seamen’s language, to run a middle seam through the cloth of a sail.

To prick a chart, is to trace a ship’s course on a chart.

PRICK, v.i. To become acid; as, cider pricks in the rays of the sun.

1. To dress one’s self for show.

2. To come upon the spur; to shoot along.

Before each van

Prick forth the airy knights.

3. To aim at a point, mark or place.


1. A slender pointed instrument or substance, which is hard enough to pierce the skin; a goad; a spur.

It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. Acts 9:5.

2. Sharp stinging pain; remorse.

3. A spot or mark at which archers aim.

4. A point; a fixed place.

5. A puncture or place entered by a point.

6. The print of a hare on the ground.

7. In seamen’s language, a small roll; as a prick of spun yarn; a prick of tobacco.

PRICKED, pp. Pierced with a sharp point; spurred; goaded; stung with pain; rendered acid or pungent; marked; designated.

PRICKER, n. A sharp pointed instrument.

1. In colloquial use, a prickle.

2. A light horseman. [Not in use.]

PRICKET, n. A buck in his second year.

PRICKING, ppr. Piercing with a sharp point; goading; affecting with pungent pain; making or becoming acid.

PRICKING, n. A sensation of sharp pain, or of being pricked.

PRICKLE, n. In botany, a small pointed shoot or sharp process, growing from the bark only, and thus distinguished from the thorn, which grows from the wood of a plant. Thus the rose, the bramble, the gooseberry and the barberry are armed with prickles.

1. A sharp pointed process of an animal.

PRICKLE-BACK, n. A small fish, so named from the prickles on its back; the stickle-back.

PRICKLINESS, n. [from prickly.] The state of having many prickles.

PRICKLOUSE, n. A low word in contempt for a taylor.

PRICKLY, a. Full of sharp points or prickles; armed with prickles; as a prickly shrub.

PRICKMADAM, n. A species of house-leek.

PRICKPUNCH, n. A piece of tempered steel with a round point, to prick a round mark on cold iron.

PRICKSONG, n. A song set to music, or a variegated song; in distinction from a plain song.

PRICKWOOD, n. A tree of the genus Euonymus.


1. Inordinate self-esteem; an unreasonable conceit of one’s own superiority in talents, beauty, wealth, accomplishments, rank or elevation in office, which manifests itself in lofty airs, distance, reserve, and often in contempt of others.

Martial pride looks down on industry.

Pride goeth before destruction. Proverbs 16:18.

Pride that dines on vanity, sups on contempt.

All pride is abject and mean.

Those that walk in pride he is able to abase. Daniel 4:37.

2. Insolence; rude treatment of others; insolent exultation.

That hardly we escap’d the pride of France.

3. Generous elation of heart; a noble self-esteem springing from a consciousness of worth.

The honest pride of conscious virtue.

4. Elevation; loftiness.

A falcon tow’ring in her pride of place.

5. Decoration; ornament; beauty displayed.

Whose lofty trees, clad with summer’s pride.

Be his this sword

Whose ivory sheath, inwrought with curious pride,

Adds graceful terror to the wearer’s side.

6. Splendid show; ostentation.

Is this array, the war of either side

Through Athens pass’d with military pride.

7. That of which men are proud; that which excites boasting.

I will cut off the pride of the Philistines. Zechariah 9:6; Zephaniah 3:11.

8. Excitement of the sexual appetite in a female beast.

9. Proud persons. Psalm 36:11.

PRIDE, v.t. With the reciprocal pronoun, to pride one’s self, to indulge pride; to take pride; to value one’s self; to gratify self-esteem. They pride themselves in their wealth, dress or equipage. He prides himself in his achievements.

PRIDEFUL, a. Full of pride; insolent; scornful.

PRIDELESS, a. Destitute of pride; without pride.

PRIDING, ppr. Indulging pride or self-esteem; taking pride; valuing one’s self.

PRIDINGLY, adv. With pride; in pride of heart.

PRIE, supposed to be so written for privet.

PRIE, for pry.

PRIEF, for proof, obsolete.

PRIER, n. [from pry.] One who inquires narrowly; one who searches and scrutinizes.

PRIEST, n. [L. proestes, a chief, one that presides; proe, before, and sto, to stand, or sisto.]

1. A man who officiates in sacred offices. Among pagans, priests were persons whose appropriate business was to offer sacrifices and perform other sacred rites of religion. In primitive ages, the fathers of families, princes and kings were priests. Thus Cain and Abel, Noah, Abraham, Melchizedek, Job, Isaac and Jacob offered their own sacrifices. In the days of Moses, the office of priest was restricted to the tribe of Levi, and the priesthood consisted of three orders, the high priest, the priests, and the Levites, and the office was made hereditary in the family of Aaron.

Every priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. Hebrews 5:1.

2. In the modern church, a person who is set apart or consecrated to the ministry of the gospel; a man in orders or licensed to preach the gospel; a presbyter. In its most general sense, the word includes archbishops, bishops, patriarchs, and all subordinate orders of the clergy, duly approved and licensed according to the forms and rules of each respective denomination of christians; as all these orders “are ordained for men in things pertaining to God.” But in Great Britain, the word is understood to denote the subordinate orders of the clergy, above a deacon and below a bishop. In the United States, the word denotes any licensed minister of the gospel.

PRIESTCRAFT, n. [priest and craft.] The stratagems and frauds of priests; fraud or imposition in religious concerns; management of selfish and ambitious priests to gain wealth and power, or to impose on the credulity of others.

PRIESTESS, n. A female among pagans, who officiated in sacred things.

PRIESTHOOD, n. The office or character of a priest.

1. The order of men set apart for sacred offices; the order composed of priests.

PRIESTLIKE, a. Resembling a priest, or that which belongs to priests.

PRIESTLINESS, n. The appearance and manner of a priest.

PRIESTLY, a. Pertaining to a priest or to priests; sacerdotal; as the priestly office.

1. Becoming a priest; as priestly sobriety and purity of life.

PRIESTRIDDEN, a. [priest and ridden. See Ride.] Managed or governed by priests.

PRIEVE, for prove.

PRIG, n.

1. A pert, conceited, saucy, pragmatical fellow.

2. A thief.

PRIG, v.i. To haggle about the price of a commodity.
PRIG, v.t. To filch or steal.

PRILL, n. A birt or turbot.

PRIM, a. Properly, straight; erect; hence, formal; precise; affectedly nice.

PRIM, v.t. To deck with great nicety; to form with affected preciseness.

PRIMACY, n. [L. primatus, from primus, first. See Prime.]

1. The chief ecclesiastical station or dignity; the office or dignity of an archbishop.

2. Excellency; supremacy.

PRIMAGE, n. In commerce, a small duty payable to the master and mariners of a ship.

PRIMAL, a. [See Prime.] First. [Not in use.]

PRIMARILY, adv. [from primary.] In the first place; originally; in the first intention. The word emperor primarily signifies a general or military commander in chief. In diseases, the physician is to attend to the part primarily affected.

PRIMARINESS, n. The state of being first in time, in act or intention.

PRIMARY, a. [L. primarius. See Prime.]

1. First in order of time; original; as the church of Christ in its primary institution.

These I call original or primary qualities of body.

2. First in dignity or importance; chief; principal. Our ancestors considered the education of youth or primary importance.

3. Elemental; intended to teach youth the first rudiments; as primary schools.

4. Radical; original; as the primary sense of a word.

Primary planets, are those which revolve about the sun, in distinction form the secondary planets, which revolve about the primary.

Primary qualities of bodies, are such as are original and inseparable from them.

PRIMATE, n. [Low L. primas. See Prime.]

The chief ecclesiastic in the church; an archbishop.

PRIMATESHIP, n. The office or dignity of an archbishop.

PRIMATIAL, a. Pertaining to a primate.

PRIMATICAL, a. Pertaining to a primate.