The word "sequel" comes from the the Latin word sequela which means "that which follows" This Latin word is formed of two parts, "sequi" which is "to follow", and a suffix to make it a noun,"-ela".

If "sequel" means a following work which continues the narrative of the main work, what is a work that is before the main work?

As in "Little Men is the sequel to Little Women, but its "___" is actually Jo's boys"

I don't like "prequel", because it is assuming the root word is "quel", which isn't the fact. The fact is that "sequel" came from "sequi", and "prequel" doesn't actually come from anything. I would like an alternative.

Does anyone have any suggestions for words referring to works predating the referred work other than prequel?

closed as not constructive by F'x, MrHen, Marthaª, Kosmonaut May 31 '11 at 16:08

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 8
    @Third Idiot: this really sounds like peeving – F'x May 31 '11 at 11:30
  • 1
    @F'x, I'm not peeving about grammar. I am asking for a word, and I do not wish it to be prequel, because I saw there was reason for not using it, and I gave an explaination why I didn't want to use it, so can someone give me an alternative?. – Thursagen May 31 '11 at 11:34
  • 3
    @Third Idiot, that reason is wrong, I think... – Alenanno May 31 '11 at 11:36
  • 4
    @Third Idiot: several people (including myself) have done so. And sentences like “prequel isn't actually correct”, “doesn't actually come from anything” and “was basically made up and informal” do sound like peeving to me. – F'x May 31 '11 at 11:36
  • 3
    Prequel sounds like a portmanteau to me. If so - it's perfectly correct. Although I've never heard or saw it used outside TV shows or fiction. – Philoto May 31 '11 at 11:45

You could use "precedent work", although more people will understand what you mean if you say "prequel".

  • I really like this term. – Thursagen Jun 1 '11 at 6:23
  1. Prequel is not “wrong”: it is widely used since the 1960’s and, as such, is documented in dictionaries (“a story or movie containing events that precede those of an existing work”, says NOAD). Because it is formed by merging the prefix pre- and sequel, rather than being directly derived from Latin roots, does not make it “wrong”, or impure, or evil, or whatever term with a moral connotation.

  2. Latin doesn't have a single root for “come before”, leaving us with praecedo or praevenio. Both roots have English decendents, namely precedent and prevenient. The latter is probably the closest to what you want (but it's an adjective, not a noun):

prevenient (adjective, formal)
preceding in time or order; antecedent: John Wesley referred to God’s work in the unconverted as prevenient grace.

Let's see a real use case:

– Have you seen the Star Wars prequel trilogy? That's badass CGI!
– I enjoyed the original trilogy, but I don't think very highly of Lucas’ prevenient story arc.

If you don't want to sound pedant and still want to avoid prequel, there are a number of alternative wordings such as preceding opus (or work).

  • Just because it was used widely in the 1960s doesn't remove the fact that it is an incorrect way of forming a word. It is assuming that "se-" is a prefix meaning "after",therefore can be replaced with "pre" This is obviously not true, and hence incorrect. – Thursagen May 31 '11 at 11:28
  • 17
    @Third Idiot: I'm not sure where you got the idea that there can be an "incorrect" way to form words to begin with. The whole point of neologisms is that they can be created out of nowhere, ignoring any and all rules, real or imagined. "I don't like it" is not the same as "It is incorrect". That's not how language works. – RegDwigнt May 31 '11 at 11:40
  • Oh, thanks Reg, that was the thing I should have written. Then maybe people would have plied me with suggestions, instead of proving "prequel" is correct! – Thursagen May 31 '11 at 11:42
  • 6
    Wikipedia's definition of prequel matches my intuition about "prequel" which is that a prequel is only a prequel if it was made after the original. That is, "The Phantom Menace" is a prequel but "A New Hope" is not. "A New Hope" is the predecessor of "The Empire Strikes Back" and not its prequel. – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 May 31 '11 at 12:41

Your explanation would be technically right but it's wrong and I'll try to explain why.

The word is Prequel, like the others said. Sequel might originally come from the Latin word sequi, but sequel has been absorbed by English and doesn't obey Latin constructions anymore, so using Latin might not be right and this is the case.

I'll give you a similar example: the word "Watergate" was originally the term used for a famous scandal in United States. The term was taken from a building that was named like that, where interceptions were made.
Years later, another scandal in the U.S. was named "Sexgate". The explanation is that every scandal now takes the suffix -gate that per se means nothing. But now it has acquired the meaning "scandal regarding..." or something similar.

Same goes for sequel, where -quel became a sort of suffix in the cinema field; therefore, prequel is perfectly acceptable.

  • Excellent explanation. I hand it to you. – Thursagen May 31 '11 at 11:48

Maybe plain simple "the previous work" (or novel or article or pretty much anything you need)?

In his previous article on sea monsters in fantasy campaigns Mr. Knowitall presented us with several fascinating - and dreadfull - life forms, found in deepest corners of the Ocean.


I think you are looking for "original".

According to Wikipedia

  • Hannibal Rising (2007)
  • Red Dragon (2002)

Are called prequels

  • The Silence of the Lambs (1991) Is the original

A fictitious Return of Hannibal (2015) would be a sequel.

  • 2
    I am assuming that this answer is addressing the title, which asks what comes before a sequel. The body of the question, however, is asking for another word for prequel. – MrHen May 31 '11 at 12:50
  • Why would The Silence of the Lambs be the original? It was the sequel to the 1986 Manhunter, which was later remade as Red Dragon, a more faithful version of the book that despite the stronger cast (the stellar Ed Norton replacing pre- CSI William Petersen and Anthony Hopkins again replacing, and respelling, Brian Cox as Hannibal Lecktor/Lector in the role he made famous) just wasn't very good. – Malvolio May 31 '11 at 17:39

The word is "prequel". The fact that it has no authenticity in Latin is irrelevant.

If you insist on classically-formed words, the best I can think of is "predecessor", but this is less precise, as it does not indicate whether it precedes in internal or external chronology.

  • 1
    It's not prequel. A prequel is a work that was written after the original, but contains events that occurred before the events in the original. – jessecurry May 31 '11 at 13:56

As has been said, there's no problem with "prequel", but perhaps "prelude" also fits the bill and has the roots you're after.

  • Sort of like this: Wagner's Ring cycle, made up of four operas, consists of a prelude and a trilogy. – GEdgar May 31 '11 at 14:08

In popular literature and movie culture I've come across prequel, but I don't know if that stands the tests of linguistics, etymology and valid sources and references often required here.

  • Ouch, did you edit your question? I did not see the last two paragraphs before I started my answer. I did not see Prequel in your question. – teylyn May 31 '11 at 11:22
  • Nah, it was always there. – Thursagen May 31 '11 at 11:56
  • But I did change a bit of the last two paragraphs so that it wouldn't offend anyone. – Thursagen May 31 '11 at 11:56
  • Must be time for me to get some sleep.... – teylyn May 31 '11 at 12:00
  • Yawn... me too! Got to wake up at 5.30 tomorrow – Thursagen May 31 '11 at 12:14

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.