A front page article in USA Today this morning refers to Hillary Clinton as the "prohibitive Democratic front-runner." I know that prohibitive is the wrong word here, but I can't remember the right one, which I am sure also starts with "pro" and ends with "ive", and means something like generally-accepted or generally-expected. What's the word the writer was trying for here?

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    presumptive? Feb 9, 2015 at 13:58
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    Are you sure that "prohibitive" is not what the article intended? Namely: As long as H.C. seems to be running, no on else will?
    – GEdgar
    Feb 9, 2015 at 14:04
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    Prohibitive So likely to win as to discourage competition. Without getting too deep into politics, the word would work.
    – Papa Poule
    Feb 9, 2015 at 14:05
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    Perhaps it is an example of the reporter misspeaking. Oh dear!
    – WS2
    Feb 9, 2015 at 16:20
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this is essentially a crossword puzzle clue. Feb 11, 2015 at 5:28

7 Answers 7


Probably prospective:

  • Likely or expected to happen.

  • of or concerned with or related to the future; "prospective earnings, "a prospective candidate.

  • "prospective Democratic front-runner"
  • While prospective seems like a good, general fit, I think that presumptive is more appropriate given the political landscape in the US at the moment.
    – Dancrumb
    Feb 9, 2015 at 22:12
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    @Dancrumb my biggest problem with "prospective" is that "A" goes better (if not only) with it than the "THE" used by the original author (see quoted example: "A prospective candidate";see also the lack of any article at all in the answer). "Presumptive," on the other hand, although going well/only with "THE," would require changing "frontrunner" to "nominee." One either IS THE current, pre-nomination "frontrunner" or IS NOT, based on the current polls/contribution level/etc...no presumptions required/permitted.
    – Papa Poule
    Feb 9, 2015 at 22:36

As Papa Poule wrote in a comment, prohibitive is exactly the right word:

So likely to win as to discourage competition. [thefreedictionary.com]

This is precisely what the reporter meant to say, and conveys the meaning exactly.

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    But that answer is non sequitur to a discussion of the English language. "What did the reporter really mean?" could perhaps be an important philosophical question, but if the OP is searching for a word beginning with "pro", ending with "-ive", not "prohibitive" and meaning "generally accepted or generally expected" then your answer is flawed because it fails to address one of the criteria. Feb 9, 2015 at 21:32
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    Answers to a flawed question that is obviously based on a false premise (i.e., "I KNOW that prohibitive is the WRONG word here") are no less flawed than the question itself if they don't address and challenge the false premise. @K.AlanBates OP wasn't looking for a synonym for "prohibitive," but was rather looking to correct a problem that didn't exist.
    – Papa Poule
    Feb 9, 2015 at 21:50
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    Plus one! Finally the ONE and ONLY correct answer to the OP's final, and in that sense ultimate, ENGLISH LANGUAGE/VOCABULARY question (What's the WORD the writer was trying for here?) Thank you! @K.AlanBates
    – Papa Poule
    Feb 9, 2015 at 22:03
  • Technically, it's not what the reporter meant to say, it's what David Axelrod's interviewer Susan Page meant to say, as the reporter is quoting her words.
    – barbecue
    Feb 9, 2015 at 23:47


  1. based on probability or presumption
  2. giving grounds for reasonable opinion or belief

Edit: just saw the comment above.


I wrote a program that scanned a dictionary with regular expressions. The (exhaustive) list is:

  • "proactive"
  • "probative"
  • "procreative"
  • "productive"
  • "prognosticative"
  • "progressive"
  • "prohibitive"
  • "projective"
  • "proliferative"
  • "promotive"
  • "propagative"
  • "proprioceptive"
  • "propulsive"
  • "proscriptive"
  • "prospective"
  • "protective"
  • "protensive"
  • "protractive"
  • "protrusive"
  • "provocative"

I looked up the definitions of the ones I didn't know. The only even remotely likely candidates are:

  • "prognosticative" (a stretch, maybe)
  • "progressive" (as in progressing to next)
  • "prospective" (by far the most likely)
  • "protensive" (maybe; would make more sense for an incumbent)
  • "protractive" (a stretch, same as above)

Therefore, the best word is "prospective".

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    You can also use the filtering syntax at OneLook to achieve a similar result, by running a query on pro*ive and then selecting 'Filter by commonness' > 'Common words'. This generates the following list: 1. proactive 2. probative 3. procreative 4. productive 5. progressive 6. prohibitive 7. projective 8. promotive 9. propagative 10. proprioceptive 11. propulsive 12. prospective 13. protective 14. protrusive 15. provocative; not quite as comprehensive a list as yours. For one that is at least as long you'd need to select 'All' instead of 'Common words'.
    – Erik Kowal
    Feb 10, 2015 at 12:53
  • Haha! +1. A sure sign that this "English Language Q&A" web site has its roots in StackOverflow, a programmers' Q&A web site! :)
    – augustin
    Feb 11, 2015 at 8:38
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    @augustin I started on stackoverflow so . . . confirmed! :D
    – geometrian
    Feb 11, 2015 at 16:12

I believe the word you are seeking is proscriptive.

proscribing or prohibiting, for example as according to a norm or standard
  • Proscriptive was the first word that came to my mind. Feb 11, 2015 at 8:07

pronormative; you generally won't find it in any but the THICKEST dictionaries. i.e. "old"

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    What does it mean?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 11, 2015 at 7:03


  1. serving to test or try : exploratory
  2. serving to prove : substantiating

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