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[prair-ee] /ˈprɛər i/
an extensive, level or slightly undulating, mostly treeless tract of land in the Mississippi valley, characterized by a highly fertile soil and originally covered with coarse grasses, and merging into drier plateaus in the west.
Compare pampas, savanna, steppe.
a tract of grassland; meadow.
(in Florida) a low, sandy tract of grassland often covered with water.
Southern U.S. wet grassland; marsh.
(initial capital letter) a steam locomotive having a two-wheeled front truck, six driving wheels, and a two-wheeled rear truck.
Origin of prairie
1675-85; < French: meadow < Vulgar Latin *prātāria, equivalent to Latin prāt(um) meadow + -āria, feminine of -ārius -ary
Related forms
prairielike, adjective

Prairie, The

a historical novel (1827) by James Fenimore Cooper. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for prairie
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The other two fellows were to drive all the horses back over the prairie.

    Two on the Trail Hulbert Footner
  • The prairie was covered with cinders, and the grass was burnt and withered.

    The Settlers in Canada Frederick Marryat
  • We passed a small settlement called the English prairie—for the prairies were now occasionally mixed up with the mountain scenery.

    Diary in America, Series One Frederick Marryat (AKA Captain Marryat)
  • Let us set off from a farm in the Western States, on the border of the prairie.

    The Western World W.H.G. Kingston
  • This was done on the prairie Hill, to which the Mandans also resort in similar cases.

British Dictionary definitions for prairie


(often pl) a treeless grassy plain of the central US and S Canada Compare pampas, steppe, savanna
Word Origin
C18: from French, from Old French praierie, from Latin prātum meadow
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for prairie

tract of level or undulating grassland in North America, by 1773, from French prairie "meadow, grassland," from Old French praerie "meadow, pastureland" (12c.), from Vulgar Latin *prataria, from Latin pratum "meadow," originally "a hollow." The word existed in Middle English as prayere, but was lost and reborrowed to describe the American plains. Prairie dog is attested from 1774; prairie schooner "immigrant's wagon" is from 1841. Illinois has been the Prairie State since at least 1861. In Latin, Neptunia prata was poetic for "the sea."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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prairie in Science
An extensive area of flat or rolling grassland, especially the large plain of central North America.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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