Word of the Day – Prepossessing

Word of the Day : February 4, 2021


adjective pree-puh-ZESS-ing


1 archaic : creating prejudice

2 : tending to create a favorable impression : attractive

Did you know?

If you’ve heard of the word unprepossessing, it probably comes as no surprise to you that there’s also a prepossessing. You may not know, however, that both derive from the verb prepossess, which is also still used in English, although it’s quite rare. When prepossess first appeared in print in English in the early 17th century it meant “to take previous possession of,” but that sense is now obsolete. The adjective prepossessing came into use later in that century and is based on a later sense, “to influence favorably beforehand.” Someone or something that is prepossessing, therefore, makes a good first impression.


“When she left a while later, with Jeff, Annie turned at the door to look for Graham. She found him—he was so tall, so prepossessing, that he was easy to spot.” — Sue Miller, Monogamy, 2020

“However, as psychoanalysis has taught us, it is the least prepossessing dreams, disguised as such to put us off the scent, that sometimes bear the most important messages from inner life.” — Janet Malcom, The New York Review of Books, 28 Mar. 2020