a | b | c | d | e | f | g | h | i | j | k | l | m | n | o | p | q | r | s | t | u | v | w | x | y | z |


PRE'TER-IT, a. [L. præteritus, prætereo; præter, 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 écrit hier, is correct; but I have written yesterday, would be very bad English.

PRE-TER-I'TION, n. [Fr. from L. prætereo, to pass by.]

  1. The act of going past; the state of being past. – Hall.
  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,” &c. The most artful praises are those bestowed by way of preterition. – Encyc.

PRE'TER-IT-NESS, n. [from preterit.]

The state of being past. [Little used.] – Bentley.

PRE-TER-LAPS'ED, a. [L. præterlapsus, præterlabor; præter and labor, to glide.]

Past; gone by; as, preterlapsed ages. – Walker.

PRE-TER-LE'GAL, a. [L. præter and legal.]

Exceeding the limits of law; not legal. [Little used.] – K. Charles.

PRE-TER-MIS'SION, n. [L. prætermissio, from prætermitto.]

  1. A passing by; omission.
  2. In rhetoric, the same as preterition.

PRE-TER-MIT', v.t. [L. prætermitto; præter, beyond, and mitto, to send.]

To pass by; to omit. – Bacon.


Passed by; omitted.

PRE-TER-NAT'U-RAL, a. [L. præter 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 can not 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.


Preternaturalness. [Little used.] – Smith.


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


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

PRE-TER-PER'FECT, a. [L. præter 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.] – Spectator.

PRE-TER-PLU-PER'FECT, a. [L. præter, 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 pant event or time; better denominated the prior past tense, that is, put prior to another event.

PRE-TEX', v.t. [L. prætexo; præ and texo, or tego, texui.]

To cloak; to conceal. [Not used.] – Edwards.

PRE-TEXT', n. [L. prætextus; Fr. pretexte; It. pretesto; Sp. pretexto.]

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 his 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. – Chapman. They suck the blood of those they depend on, under a pretext of service and kindness. – L'Estrange.

PRE'TOR, n. [L. prætor, from the root of præ, 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. – Encyc. In modern times, the word is sometimes used for a mayor or magistrate. – Dryden. Spectator.


Pertaining to a pretor or judge. – Burke.


Belonging to a pretor or judge; judicial; exercised by the pretor; as, pretorian power or authority. – Bacon. Pretorian bands or guards, in Roman history, were the emperor's guards. Their number was ultimately increased to ten thousand men. – Encyc.


The office of pretor. – Warton.

PRET-TI-LY, adv. [prit'tily. from pretty.]

  1. In a pretty manner; with neatness and taste; pleasingly; without magnificence or splendor; as, a woman prettily dressed; a parterre prettily ornamented with flowers.
  2. With decency, good manners and decorum without dignity. Children kept out of ill company, take a pride to behave themselves prettily. – Locke.

PRET-TI-NESS, 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. – More.
  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's behavior.

PRET-TY, a. [prit'ty; Sax. præte, adorned; prætig, sly, crafty; Dan. prydet, adorned; Sw. prydd, id.; W. pryd, comeliness, beauty, also that is present, stated time, hour or season, visage, aspect; prydain, exhibiting presence or an open countenance, beautiful; prydiaw, to represent an object, to record an event, to render seasonable, to set apart a time, to become seasonable. This word seems to be connected with priawd, appropriate, proper, fitting, whence priodi, to render appropriate, to espouse or marry, and priodverç, a bride. Hence it is evident, the radical sense is set, or as we say, set off, implying enlargement.]

  1. Having diminutive beauty; of a pleasing form without the strong lines of beauty, or without gracefulness and dignity; as, a pretty face; a pretty person; a pretty flower. The pretty gentleman is the most complaisant creature in the world. – Spectator. That which is little can be but pretty, and by claiming dignity becomes ridiculous. – Johnson.
  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 prætig. 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.] – Bacon.

PRET-TY, 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. – Atterbury.


Spoken or speaking prettily.