Prospect (meaning)

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  • The noun 'a prospect' (stressed on the first syllable: 'PRO-spect', IPA: /ˈprɒ spɛkt/) means, in general, 'a view' or an 'outlook': "from my room, the prospect of the city is delightful."
There is a Christian hymn where the beauty of the Creation is contrasted with the sinfulness of humans, in the line
Though every prospect pleases,
And only man is vile
(Heber, Reginald (Bishop of Calcutta) (1821) 'From Greenland's icy mountains')
    • Perhaps more often, it is used figuratively: "The prospect of my retirement is even more delightful." In this sense, the word is often used in the plural: " In the current economic climate, the prospects of employment are not good."
    • It is this sense of 'looking into the future' that gives us the adjective prospective, meaning 'potential', 'possible' or 'expected:
  • In British English, the traditional academic pronunciation of the verb 'to prospect' stresses the second syllable: 'pruh-SPEKT', with the characteristic vague vowel, the schwa; IPA: /prə ˈspɛkt/. In the United States, it is invariably stressed in the same way as the noun. This is a less common variant in Britain, although the vowel here is not uncommonly realized like the '-o-' of 'not' and 'got' (IPA: /ɒ/. The meaning of this verb is derived from the figurative senses of the noun: a prospector is someone looking for mineral deposits. Such a miner is seeking to discover, from signs on the surface, whether the prospects of success are good. The bearded old miner prospecting for gold is a common stereotype in Western films. Nowadays, he has been supplanted by geologists using satellite and seismic technologies, etc, to reduce the element of chance.
    • A word that should be familiar to students is prospectus. This (~ 'a document giving details of what may be expected from - a university, school or company') is pronounced with the stress on the second syllable, 'pruh-SPECT-uhs', IPA: /prə ˈspɛkt əs/. Although it looks like - and indeed was - a Latin word, its modern use dates from 18th century French, where a prospectus was an announcement of a forthcoming book. So, contrary to the advice at -us in Latin, the [[plural of prospectus is prospectuses - not prospecti.
You may also want to see prospect (pronunciation), or AWE's page on perspective and prospective.