The word prophet has been in the English language since the earliest days of Old English, when it was spelled propheta. Throughout the centuries, the spelling took on forms like prophetæ, prophete, proffet, profitte, and profite until prophet was widely accepted in the seventeenth century. The word comes from Latin, where it was spelled the same way and had the same meaning. That in turn derives from Ancient Greek prophetes, which most aptly described oracles who could see into the future. This may be revealed in the term's etymology, which meant "before-tell", as in foresight. Pro- was a prefix meaning "before" (from PIE per) and phemein, the root, is a verb meaning "to tell" from Proto-Indo-European behti, meaning "to speak". As the world's gotten less religious, use of prophet in literature has decreased over time.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a junior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.