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From Middle English prophecien; partly from prophecie, and partly from Middle French prophecier, prophesier, from prophecie (prophecy).



prophesy (third-person singular simple present prophesies, present participle prophesying, simple past and past participle prophesied)

  1. To speak or write with divine inspiration; to act as prophet. [from 14th c.]
    • 1611, King James Version of the Bible, Joel 2:28,[1]
      And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:
    • 1648, Robert Herrick, “Not every day fit for Verse” in Hesperides, London: John Williams & Francis Eglesfield, p. 285,[2]
      ’Tis not ev’ry day, that I
      Fitted am to prophesie:
      No, but when the Spirit fils
      The fantastick Pannicles:
      Full of fier; then I write
      As the Godhead doth indite.
    • 1958, Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart, Oxford: Heinemann, 1996, Part One, Chapter Eleven, p. 70,[3]
      [] at that very moment a loud and high-pitched voice broke the outer silence of the night. It was Chielo, the priestess of Agbala, prophesying. There was nothing new in that. Once in a while Chielo was possessed by the spirit of her god and she began to prophesy.
  2. To predict, to foretell (with or without divine inspiration). [from 14th c.]
    • c. 1591, William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part 1, Act V, Scene 1,[4]
      Then I perceive that will be verified
      Henry the Fifth did sometime prophesy
      ‘If once he come to be a cardinal,
      He’ll make his cap co-equal with the crown.’
    • 1611, King James Version of the Bible, 1 Kings 22:8,[5]
      He doth not prophesy good concerning me.
    • 1848, Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Barton, Chapter 5,[6]
      People prophesied a long continuance to this already lengthened frost; said the spring would be very late; no spring fashions required; no summer clothing purchased for a short uncertain summer.
    • 1982, Lawrence Durrell, Constance, Faber & Faber 2004 (Avignon Quintet), p. 745:
      ‘It has been prophesied more than once that he will find it.’
  3. To foreshow; to herald; to prefigure.
  4. (intransitive, Christianity) To speak out on the Bible as an expression of holy inspiration; to preach. [from 14th c.]
    • 1646, Jeremy Taylor, Of the Liberty of Prophesying, Section 4, in Treatises of 1. The liberty of prophesying, 2. Prayer ex tempore, 3. Episcopacie: together with a sermon, London: R. Royston, 1648, p. 73,[8]
      [] if we consider that we have no certain wayes of determining places of difficulty and Question, infallibly and certainly [] we shall see a very great necessity in allowing a liberty in Prophesying without prescribing authoritatively to other mens consciences, and becomming Lords and Masters of their Faith.

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