From Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search



Etymology 1[edit]

Borrowed from Ancient Greek πρόνοιᾰ (prónoia, foreknowledge, foresight; providence; form of land grant), from πρόνοος (prónoos, careful, prudent) + -ῐᾰ (-ia, suffix forming nouns). πρόνοος is derived from προ- (pro-, prefix indicating a coming forth) + νόος (nóos, the mind; act of the mind). The English word is cognate with Latin pronoea (providence).[1]

The plural form pronoiae is probably a modification of Latin pronoeae, while pronoiai is from Ancient Greek πρόνοιαι (prónoiai).


pronoia (countable and uncountable, plural pronoiae or pronoiai or pronoias)

  1. (philosophy, theology) Divine providence, foreknowledge, foresight.
    • 1614, Walter Raleigh, “Of the Creation, and Preservation of the World”, in The Historie of the World. In Five Bookes. [], London: Printed for Walter Bvrre, →OCLC, § XIII (Of Providence), page 15:
      Now Providence (which the Greekes call Pronoia) is an intellectuall knowledge, both fore-ſeeing, caring for, and ordering all things, and doth not onely behold all paſt, all present, and all to come, but is the cauſe of their ſo being, which Preſcience (ſimply taken) is not: and therefore Providence by the Philoſophers (ſaith S. Auguſtine) is divided into Memory, Knowledge, and Care: []
    • 1836–1842, Thomas Chalmers, “Lecture XCIV: Romans, xiii, 11–14”, in Lectures on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans (The Works of Thomas Chalmers; 25), volume IV, Glasgow: William Collins, []; London: Hamilton, Adams, & Co., →OCLC, pages 320–321:
      [page 320] 'And make no provision for the flesh.' [Romans 13:14] 'Provision.' [footnote: Προνοια.] The word implies a forecasting of the mind; and the prohibition therefore is against all deliberation or devising of means or expedients for the gratification of our lusts. [] [page 321] He is a confirmed and advanced learner in the school of wickedness, who can thus in his cooler moments bestow care and calculation on such an enterprise, and in short make a study of the likeliest methods for securing to himself te enjoyment of unhallowed pleasures; and this is the pronoia, the unholy providence, if it may be so termed, on which our text lays its interdict. But it is not against all pronoia, all respect to things future, even though the futurities of this life, that the Bible warns us.
    • 1869 January, E. E. Higbee, “Art IV.—The Christian Conception of History.”, in T. G. Apple, editor, The Mercersburg Review; an Organ for Christological, Historical and Positive Theology, volume XVI, Philadelphia, Pa.: Reformed Church Publication Board, [], →OCLC, page 101:
      The development of the Roman State, therefore, a world-process whose magnitude is truly wonderful, was not brought about as though a drifting mass of elements, by some outward force or inherent affinity became consolidated to revolve at random without any end or aim in that divine pronoia under which the ages move.
    • 1967, F[rancis] E[dward] Peters, “prónoia: forethought, providence”, in Greek Philosophical Terms: A Historical Lexicon, New York, N.Y.: New York University Press, →OCLC, paragraph 1, page 164:
      The earlier history of the concept of providence is to be seen in the emergence, from Diogenes to Aristotle, of a notion of an intelligent purpose (telos, q.v.) operating in the universe. In all of these thinker it is clearly associated with the intelligent God whose features begin to appear in the later Plato (see Laws 899 where the denial of pronoia is reckoned blasphemy) and in Aristotle. For the Stoics the immanent Logos governs all by nous and pronoia (D.L. vii, 138; SVF i, 176).
  2. (historical, Byzantine Empire) An imperial grant to an individual of temporary fiscal rights in the form of land, incomes or taxes from land, fishing rights, etc., sometimes carrying with it an obligation of military service.
    • 1992, Mark C. Bartusis, “Smallholding and Pronoia Soldiers and Their Financing”, in Ruth Mazo Karras, editor, The Late Byzantine Army: Arms and Society, 1204–1453 (The Middle Ages Series), Philadelphia, Pa.: University of Pennsylvania Press, →ISBN, part 2 (The Army as Institution), page 183:
      Unlike fiefs, pronoiai were granted only by the emperor, and so they played no role in producing the subinfeudation and the hierarchical social and political structure characteristic of Western feudalism. Pronoia was a fiscal and administrative institution; the fief territorial and personal. The grant of a pronoia was primarily a grant of revenue expressed as a monetary sum (the posotes), not in terms of a quantity of property.
    • 1987, John V[an] A[ntwerp] Fine, Jr., “The Second Half of the Thirteenth Century”, in The Late Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey from the Late Twelfth Century to the Ottoman Conquest, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan Press, →ISBN, page 170:
      By 1270 Michael VIII had issued charters to two monasteries in eastern Thessaly near the Gulf of Volos (Makrinitisa and Neopetra), showing he had acquired that region. From these years imperial grants of pronoias and of tax exemptions to various notables of east Thessaly begin appearing. Thus probably in 1267/68 the Byzantines regained some or all of Thessaly's east coast.
    • 2002, Nicolas Oikonomides, “The Role of the Byzantine State in the Economy”, in John Solman, transl., edited by Angeliki E. Laiou, The Economic History of Byzantium: From the Seventh through the Fifteenth Century, volume 3, Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, →ISBN, part 5 (Economic Institutions and the State), pages 1045–1046:
      The economic composition of the pronoia belonging to a heavy cavalryman in the fourteenth century, such as those who served in the mega allagion (regiment) of Thessalonike in the fourteenth century, is known to us from some of the praktika of pronoia holders that have survived. [] According to the praktikon, the revenue of the pronoiarios consisted of two parts. The first was the oikoumenon, that is, the sum of all the personal taxes paid to the pronoia holder by his paroikoi resident on the pronoia, depending on the means of production at the disposal of each paroikos. [] The second part consisted of secondary taxes and rights (e.g., on fishing, the ennomion, and the tax on flax-retting units), but above all of land, on which, theoretically, the full tax was payable [].
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

pro- +‎ (para)noia, coined by American sociologist Fred H. Goldner in a paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Social Problems in August 1981. A version of this paper, entitled “Pronoia”, was published in the journal Social Problems in October 1982: see the quotation.[2]


pronoia (uncountable)

  1. (psychology) A belief (sometimes regarded as irrational) that people conspire to do one good. [from 1981]
    Antonym: paranoia
    • 1982 October 1, Fred H. Goldner, “Pronoia”, in Social Problems, volume 30, number 1, Berkeley, Calif.: Published by the University of California Press for the Society for the Study of Social Problems, →DOI, →ISSN, →OCLC, abstract, page 82:
      Pronoia is the positive counterpart of paranoia. It is the delusion that others think well of one. Actions and the products of one's efforts are thought to be well received and praised by others. Mere acquaintances are thought to be close friends; politeness and the exchange of pleasantries are taken as expressions of deep attachment and the promise of future support. Pronoia appears to be rooted in the social complexity and cultural ambiguity of our lives: we have become increasingly dependent on the opinions of others based on uncertain criteria.
    • 1997, Trudy Govier, “Socrates, the Sting Ray of Athens”, in Socrates’ Children: Thinking and Knowing in the Western Tradition, Peterborough, Ont., Orchard Park, N.Y.: Broadview Press, →ISBN, page 18:
      "Pronoia" is comparable to paranoia (which is commonly believed to be a mental disease), but is its emotional opposite. The paranoic thinks that everyone and everything are conspiring against him. So-called pronoids see reality as quite positive, and regard themselves as responsible for good things, which they are convinced are going to happen. If paranoia is a mental disorder, then pronoia is a mental disorder. So (apparently) happiness is a mental disorder.


  1. ^ pronoia, n.1”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, June 2007; “pronoia”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
  2. ^ pronoia, n.2”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, June 2007.

Further reading[edit]