[ prop ]
/ prɒp /
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verb (used with object), propped, prop·ping.
to support, or prevent from falling, with or as if with a prop (often followed by up): to prop an old fence; to prop up an unpopular government.
to rest (a thing) against a support: He propped his cane against the wall.
to support or sustain (often followed by up).
a stick, rod, pole, beam, or other rigid support.
a person or thing serving as a support or stay: His father is his financial prop.
Apostrophes can be tricky; prove you know the difference between "it’s" and "its" in this crafty quiz!
Question 1 of 8
On the farm, the feed for chicks is significantly different from the roosters’; ______ not even comparable.

Origin of prop

First recorded in 1400–50; late Middle English noun prop(p)e “support, support for a vine or plant”; cognate with Middle Dutch proppe “bottle stopper,” early Modern Dutch “support for vines”


un·propped, adjective

Other definitions for prop (2 of 5)

[ prop ]
/ prɒp /

noun Theater.

Origin of prop

First recorded in 1910–15; by shortening


propless, adjective

Other definitions for prop (3 of 5)

[ prop ]
/ prɒp /

a propeller.

Origin of prop

First recorded in 1910–15; by shortening

Other definitions for prop (4 of 5)


a combining form representing propionic acid in compound words: propanil.

Other definitions for prop (5 of 5)


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does prop mean?

In theater and film, a prop is any item on the set of a production other than the costumes and scenery. It especially refers to an object handled or used by actors during their performance.

This can be just about anything: a sword, a supercomputer, and a coffee mug are all examples of things that can be used as props in a production. Sometimes, these are real objects (like the coffee mug), but sometimes they are specially made for the production (like the supercomputer).

The word can also be used more generally to refer to an item used in a similar way, such as during a presentation or photoshoot.

Example: At my improv class, we have a box of items we can use as props during each scene.

Unrelatedly, prop is also a common verb meaning to support something or hold it up, especially by using something else. This sense of the verb is most commonly used in the verb phrase prop up, as in One of the legs is broken so we had to prop up the table with the trash can. It can also be used figuratively, as in Holiday sales are the only thing propping up the company.

Prop can also mean rest or lean something against something else that serves as a support, as in I don’t have a stand for my guitar so I just prop it against the wall.

Something that serves as a support for something in this way can be called a prop, as in We’ll need to use a prop to keep it stable.

Example: Prop the door open with a chair so we don’t get locked out.

Where does prop come from?

The first records of the word prop in the sense of a support come from the 1400s. It comes from the Middle English word proppe, which is related to the Middle Dutch proppe, meaning “bottle stopper.”

In the context of theater and film, the word prop actually comes from a shortening of the word property, which can be used to mean the same thing (though this is now rare due to how common the use of prop is).

The unrelated term props means “recognition or respect” and comes from a shortening of propers (as in proper recognition or respect).

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What are some synonyms for prop?

What are some words that often get used in discussing prop?

How is prop used in real life?

The use of props in the theater and film is extremely common—even the most basic stage play usually has at least a few props. Some famous movie props become collector’s items. The unrelated verb prop is very common and can be used in all kinds of contexts involving supporting things or holding them up, both literally and figuratively.

Try using prop!

Is prop used correctly in the following sentence?

I was so exhausted that I had to prop myself against the wall just to stand up.

How to use prop in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for prop (1 of 3)

/ (prɒp) /

verb props, propping or propped (when tr, often foll by up)
(tr) to support with a rigid object, such as a stick
(tr usually also foll by against) to place or lean
(tr) to sustain or support
(intr) Australian and NZ to stop suddenly or unexpectedly

Word Origin for prop

C15: related to Middle Dutch proppe vine prop; compare Old High German pfropfo shoot, German Pfropfen stopper

British Dictionary definitions for prop (2 of 3)

/ (prɒp) /


British Dictionary definitions for prop (3 of 3)

/ (prɒp) /

an informal word for propeller
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

Other Idioms and Phrases with prop


see knock the bottom (props) out from.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.