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First, is "pro" an abbreviated form of "professional"? If yes, does "Pro American" mean "Professional American"?

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2 Answers

Here are the three meanings of pro:

  • (noun) professional. Example: Don't mess with me. I'm a pro!

  • (noun) advantage. Used mainly within the context of pros and cons (advantages and disadvantages). Example: The pros of democratic governance far outweigh the cons.

  • (preposition/adverb) in support of. Example: I'm a pro-choice activist.

In your example, pro-American is an adjective (pro functions as a preposition here), and as such, it should always be hyphenated. Example: His views are definitely pro-American. On the other hand, pro America is an adverbial phrase and it should not be hyphenated. Example: The Non-Aligned Movement has never been pro America.

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protip: being pro-American has a lot of pros. –  Eric Dec 21 '10 at 11:23
    
@Eric, and if one of those pros was that you had a paid job promoting American interests, you'd be a pro pro-American. (Note given the purpose of this website, that was a deliberately silly use of English as a joke). –  Jon Hanna Jan 16 '13 at 10:34
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No, in the usage you describe, pro means in favor of or a proponent of. I believe the etymology is simply that pro is Latin meaning for.

So if someone is Pro American, it would mean that they have a favorable opinion of America in some context.

Edit: I'll note the opposite is normally anti. Anti-American sentiments would be those that are unfavorable to America

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Agreed. However, the usage of "pro" meaning "in favor of" is usually followed by a dash, as in "pro-American". Note the difference between a "pro football group" and a "pro-football group". –  Dour High Arch Dec 20 '10 at 22:16
    
@Dour High Arch - excellent point. –  Dusty Dec 20 '10 at 22:19
    
Why no? Is "pro" (Professional) an adj.? If yes, why we can't say "pro american" or "pro people"? –  kikio Dec 21 '10 at 11:17
    
@kikio - "pro" as an abbreviation of professional is not used universally in adjective form. It is mostly restricted to the use of professional ranking in sports (i.e. not amateur) or other fields by analogy (e.g. he's a pro pianist). If you were to say He is a pro person that would be strange and mean something more along the lines of he's an expert at being a person rather than what you probably mean He works as a professional. –  Dusty Dec 21 '10 at 15:17
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@kikio - I'll also point out that pro-American is a fairly common phrase (meaning in favor of America) and so if you said He's a pro American I assume you'd made a typo of He's pro-American rather than He's a professional American –  Dusty Dec 21 '10 at 15:18
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protected by RegDwigнt Mar 21 '13 at 14:27

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