Origin of self-fulfilling
Words nearby self-fulfilling
ABOUT THIS WORD
What does self-fulfilling prophecy mean?
A self-fulfilling prophecy is a prediction that causes itself to be true due to the behavior (including the act of predicting it) of the believer.
Self-fulling, here, means “brought about as a result of being foretold or talked about,” while prophecy refers to the prediction.
Where did the term self-fulfilling prophecy come from?
Predictions about the future are often little more than guesses based on the best information available. A self-fulfilling prophecy, on the other hand, comes true precisely because someone thought it up and predicted it. Due to their own biases, the predictor may unconsciously take actions that cause the prediction to happen, for better or worse.
An everyday example can be found in sports. If a player enters a game certain that they will lose, it can cause a psychological feedback loop where he plays the game poorly, causing the loss predicted and resulting in a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The concept of an individual’s expectation of success or failure in causing their own victory or downfall has long been the subject of literature and legend. Use of the term self-fulfilling prophecy, however, goes back to at least 1832.
Credit for popularizing the term, and strictly defining it, goes to American sociologist Robert Merton. In his 1948 essay titled “The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy,” Merton described the concept as “A false definition of the situation evoking a new behavior which makes the originally false conception come true.” Merton was directly inspired by the famous theorem of fellow sociologist William Thomas, who wrote “If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.”
Following this, the phrase (as defined by Robert Merton) was used often by sociologists. Today, the term appears in everything from essays and literature to popular music and casual conversation. The term, while common, is still considered a learned one.
How to use the term self-fulfilling prophecy
Historically, a self-fulfilling prophecy was contrasted with a self-defeating prophecy, the former signifying a positive outcome and the latter negative. Self-fulfilling prophecy now covers both situations, though the phrase is generally reserved for undesirable experiences and therefore carries a negative connotation.
When discussed in academic or technical contexts, self-fulfilling prophecy is sometimes shortened to SFP.
The phrase is now widely used outside of such formal settings. In colloquial speech and writing, self-fulfilling prophecy is often used less strictly as a way of explaining some fault or failure in the face of previous warning signs (e.g., “I told you so”).
More examples of self-fulfilling prophecy:
“That a man who was for many months Trump’s right-hand man would brazenly give out such doom-laden predictions is remarkable enough. But letting the world know of it via Wolff could make it a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
—Ed Pilkington, The Guardian, January 2018
This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.
How to use self-fulfilling in a sentence
We see detoxing as a path to transcendence, a symbol of modern urban virtue and self-transformation through abstinence.
Back in New York, the slow pace and inward focus of her yoga practice was less fulfilling.
Stephanie Giorgio, a classical musician, credits The Class for helping her cope with anxiety, focus, fear, and self-doubt.
For someone with anorexia, self-starvation makes them feel better.How Skinny Is Too Skinny? Israel Bans ‘Underweight’ Models|Carrie Arnold|January 8, 2015|DAILY BEAST
I went into the audition as Fericito, the Venezuelan percussionist, and then I did a self-defense expert.Coffee Talk with Fred Armisen: On ‘Portlandia,’ Meeting Obama, and Taylor Swift’s Greatness|Marlow Stern|January 7, 2015|DAILY BEAST
Let the thought of self pass in, and the beauty of great action is gone, like the bloom from a soiled flower.Pearls of Thought|Maturin M. Ballou
Now this setting up of an orderly law-abiding self seems to me to imply that there are impulses which make for order.Children's Ways|James Sully
At present, Louis was too self-absorbed by the struggles within him, to look deep into what was passing around him.The Pastor's Fire-side Vol. 3 of 4|Jane Porter
But to wave this discourse of Heathens, how many self-contradicting principles are there held among Christians?
Jean grinned and dribbled self-consciously, and showed his two little teeth to the proudest father in the world.The Joyous Adventures of Aristide Pujol|William J. Locke