I came across the word "presage" through the Vocabulary Builder as below

presage (v.) presij
to indicate something (usually bad) is about to happen.
The sudden loss of jobs presaged an economic downturn.
The Latin word ōmen is thought to be the origin for presage. Presage can also be a noun, describing an incident or event that presages something.

And I am familiar with the word "sage" as an adjective. Merriam-Webster Unabridged says,

a: eminent in wisdom: wise through reflection and experience: prudent and philosophic in judgment and views
the wise reasoning of a certain sage magistrate — George Berkeley

b [archaic]: grave, solemn
among the sage and somber figures that would put his unsophisticated cheerfulness to shame — Nathaniel Hawthorne

2: proceeding from or characterized by wisdom, prudence, and good judgment
providing sage guidance to non-ponderous writing — Saturday Review

I know "pre" is the suffix originally from Latin meaning "before".

Does anyone how come adding "pre" adds the meaning of something bad to the word "presage" etymologically?

Other examples are "pretext" and "preclude" also taken from The Vocabulary Builder by Magoosh.

Pretext (n.) A reason given for something that is not the actual reason

Preclude (v.) to make it impossible for something to happen

Presentiment (n.) A feeling that something (typically bad) is about to happen

Thank you for answer anyhow. But are you sure pre and per are the same? (It says, "extended").


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So if "beyond" extends, it means, too much. Wouldn't too much mean too less?

  • I would like to ask about the words "presentiment" and "sentiment" too. Thank you in advance.
    – user193343
    Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 6:28
  • 1
    It's "gotcha"...
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jan 14, 2019 at 12:36
  • @Mari-LouA Gotcha. Thanks too haha.
    – user193343
    Commented Jan 14, 2019 at 12:38
  • On second thoughts, it's "got it". Gotcha is normally negative, it means I have caught you in the act of doing something wrong.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jan 14, 2019 at 12:43
  • @Mari-LouA I used the abbreviation of "got it" as "gotta". And you lead me to wrong way? Come on Italian sweet.
    – user193343
    Commented Jan 14, 2019 at 12:46

3 Answers 3


No, the main sense conveyed by the prefix pre- is that of anticipating in time or space.

word-forming element meaning "before," from Old French pre- and Medieval Latin pre-, both from Latin prae (adverb and preposition) *"before in time or place,"...extended form of root per- "forward," hence "beyond, in front of, before."


Non negative examples:

Predict, prevent, prepare, prelude, presume etc.

  • 1
    But per- is a different prefix from pre-.
    – Rosie F
    Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 6:46
  • 2
    @KentaroTomono - the negative, neutral or positive connotation of term starting with President pre is just incidental. Pre- as a suffix doesn’t convey a negative sense!
    – user 66974
    Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 6:54
  • 1
    How come on the earth does "to perceive beforehand" connote negative nature??
    – user193343
    Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 7:01
  • 1
    @KentaroTomono - that’s going to be a POB issue. To your main question the answer is “NO”.
    – user 66974
    Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 7:03
  • 1
    "To perceive beforehand" does not connote anything negative. It just happens that some words beginning with 'pre', meaning before, happen to have acquired a negative connotation. Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 9:02

The prefix pre- just means “before” (in time, place, order, degree, or importance) [Oxford Dictionaries]

  • If someone predicts a candidate's victory they either have a good or bad presentiment (n), in which case they might prewarn the press and the public.

  • Dams are built in order to prevent rivers, inland lakes, and seas from flooding towns and valleys.

  • Something that is prehistoric probably dates back thousands of years but it could also refer sarcastically to last year's iPhone.

  • A precocious child whose parents are talented musicians, renowned doctors, scientists etc. is said to be predestined for great things.

  • President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize, a highly prestigious award

All of the words in bold contain the prefix pre-, none carry negative connotations.

The word predilection literally means “liking before”, to prefer something above all the rest, i.e. to have a favourite. The word is derived from Medieval Latin praediligere to love more. A person who strongly likes fast cars will probably have a predilection for expensive vehicles.

The etymology of ‘sage’

Sage is a Middle English word, derived from Old French sage (11th century), from Vulgar Latin sapius and sapere, from ancient Greek σαφής, saphês, (clear). In Latin, sapere was to have a taste or flavour of (sapore), later it was used as a metaphor for something that was evident (strong tasting?). In Oscan (an extinct language from Southern Italy, 500 BC to AD 100) the term sipus, which is translated as sciens (knowing, understanding) in Latin, is believed by some scholars to signify “having known”. Therefore, the literal translation of presage would be "pre-taste" to taste (see, understand, know) something beforehand.

Admittedly, the OP's presage does carry a negative connotation…

I had a nagging presage that the results of my medical tests would not be good.

but not always,

The sight of the first robin is always a welcome presage of spring

(Examples: Merriam-Webster)

Further reading

Dizionario Etimilogico Online (in Italian)
Oscan language (Wikipedia)
Italic and Romance: Linguistic studies in honor of Ernst Pulgram (link)


According to dictionary.com, pre means

akin to first, fore-, prior, pro

For instance pre-school. It's before school. Prestigious has a positive connotation, and predict doesn't have a negative or positive connotation. Here are some more examples:


"Solutions of uranyl salts (nitrate, &c.) behave to reagents as follows: sulphuretted hydrogen produces green uranous salt with precipitation of sulphur; sulphide of ammonium in neutral solutions gives a black precipitate of UO 2 S, which settles slowly and, while being washed in the filter, breaks up partially into hydrated UO 2 an sulphur; ammonia gives a yellow precipitate of uranate of ammonia, characteristically soluble in hot carbonate of ammonia solution; prussiate of potash gives a brown precipitate which in appearance is not unlike the precipitate produced by the same reagent in cupric salts."


"I know you've been preoccupied, but everyone else has noticed his interest in you."


"The cardiology team at Ealing Hospital has been awarded the prestigious accolade of Cardiology Team of the Year 2013 by Hospital Doctor Magazine."

All examples taken from sentence.yourdictionary.com.

  • Thank you for your reply. Let me read yours carefully later a bit.(m_m).
    – user193343
    Commented Jan 15, 2019 at 2:14

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