Is “Prepone” a Word?

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A reader wonders:

Can the word ‘prepone’ be used as an antonym of ‘postpone’? I’ve often heard people using this term but never been convinced about the usage. If this term is not correct or non-existent, what is the correct antonym of ‘postpone’ if any at all?

The word prepone to mean “to move forward in time,” is a word coined by English speakers in India. Example: The examination set for March 12 has been preponed to February 16.

Although a recent coinage–the OED dates its appearance from the 1970s–the word is constructed along the same lines as postpone,

postpone: from Latin postponere, “put after.” post=”after” and ponere=“to put” or “to place.”

The English prefix pre-, meaning “before,” comes from Latin prae, meaning “before.” If postponere, why not praeponere?

Some existing antonyms for postpone are “bring forward, move up, advance.” Ex. The ten o’clock meeting has been moved forward to nine.

The word prepone sounds too strange and unlovely to my ear for me to want to use it. However, if enough speakers decide that the word fills a need, it will catch on globally.

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61 thoughts on “Is “Prepone” a Word?”

  1. Quoting from the OALD:

    pre·pone / Ñ pri;’pJUn; NAmE Ñ -poUn/ verb[vn] (IndE, informal) to move sth to an earlier time than was originally planned

    The word does exist, it has originated from Indian English and has been accepted by the Oxford dictionary. English as a language has borrowed from other languages and that is why it is so dynamic. The word chutney has been in the OALD since a long time, maybe an outcome of the British Raj.

  2. “Example: The examination set for March 12 has been preponed to February 16.”

    Shouldn’t this be: “Example: The examination set for February 16 has been preponed to March 12.”

    If not, I am very confused.

  3. Charles Lazo,
    February 16 is earlier than March 12. The exam was announced for March 12, but now it will be given at an earlier date. It’s been “preponed” (moved up) to February 16.

    If you’re confused by the usage, you can be sure that others are too.

  4. If postponere, why not praeponere?

    No reason — it is, in fact, attested Latin! Not with that meaning, though (it means “to put in charge” … the word “preposition” derives from the same source …)

  5. I agree “pre-pone” is a term coined by Indians, though my English teacher repeatedly advised us not to use the word. I find it unpleasant too, and I still go by my English teacher’s alternative, “advanced”.

    “The exams that were scheduled to begin on February 12 have been advanced to February 8.”

  6. “Prepone” reminds me of a mother trying to potty-train her child (an unpleasant activity).

    “Prepone” is unpleasant, too.

    The exams will begin on February 8 instead of February 12.

  7. @Raman: Saying a date has “advanced” is far more confusing than using an inelegant word such as “prepone”, which is clearly the opposite of “postpone”.

    If the date of an event is “advanced” it could mean advanced towards the present time (i.e. brought forward to an EARLIER date) or advanced into the future.

    Far better to take Ken’s suggestion and reword to avoid all of them.

  8. My flight in India was actually “PREPONED” and left without me. I now stand corrected as i told the guy that preponed is not a word, and you cant do that. I see they can invent words and send flights early in India

  9. Pfft. We have more English speakers than the English by far so we get to create words. In other words, QQ MOAR.

  10. @cecily:we say “i am paying the money in advance”… this means that we are paying it “before” the d-date. but “advanced” into future? Am not sure i got you.Enlighten us abt it.

  11. @abc: I think the ambiguity of “advanced” only applies to appointments, not things such as payment.

    Paying the money in advance is fine. It’s a common idiom that almost everyone understands.

    Saying the date of a meeting has advanced is not at all clear. Has it advanced towards now (i.e. been brought forward) or advanced into the future (i.e. pushed back)?

    Fortunately, I don’t think I’ve ever come across anyone using it in that way, except in discussions such as this, and I suspect that is because most people realise it’s not clear.

  12. @ All
    I’m from the Asian sub-continent & not proud to accept the fact that ‘prepone’ originated from my country. But I would suggest, all to avoid it.

    @ Cecily
    Thats a first for me (‘your statement on the usage of ‘advanced’). I know of English speakers both native & absorbent, to use it proficiently for ‘advancement’ of date i.e. to mean the scheduled event (which includes payment) has been re-sketched to happen earlier 🙂 . And have come across regularly of these at work. But not a single occasion there was a ambiguity in what it conveyed.

  13. I am an Indian and we use “prepone” as a word, though I know this is not a word. For us the meaning is clear and we have no confusions as you have in the alternatives (advanced etc). My suggestion is accept it and use it, moreover when Oxford Dictionary accepted it whats the harm?

  14. Pinakie,
    Since writing this post, I’ve changed my mind about the relative loveliness of “prepone.” I think the word fills a need so, as you say, what’s the harm?

  15. accepting the so called word prepone is not very convincing,if so we as well accept ‘poned’ for something scheduled on time.is it sound to use the word ‘anticipate’ insted? EG:the exam was anticipated.

  16. Raman ur english teacher does not know english does not matters whether he/she is a harward graduate.

  17. What I could learn from my investigation is that actually the word pre pone exists; note that there is a blank space between “pre” and “pone”.

  18. Why Indians should be “ashamed” of using prepone?

    It is bit rich of English speaking western countries to expect Indians to understand what they speak, even if means using slang, yet point out that words like prepone is wrong! nor make any effort towards understanding Indian English.

    How about stop adding “like” before every word in spoken in London? No?

  19. This is very interesting. I did not know that prepone is not a word. I was writing an email in Microsoft outlook and it underlines the word in red. Then I searched about the word and found this site. I think using prepone is fine as it is perfect antonym of postpone. Infact I am surprised why is it not a word in first place.

  20. Why is this made-up word even given consideration? If you are going to do so, then “antepone” would probably be more accurate.

  21. Prepone is not only used in India, but also Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Gulf countries, Africa – makes up of 40% of the world.

    Americans will next claim lift is not an English word.

    British people will next claim tiffin is not an English word.

    Britain and American do not even know English properly that is why when they claim every word not used there is not English word.

    Next Lakh, crore etc are not English word.

    Next, they will claim autorickshaw is not an English word.

    Is it not a shame that countries where official language is English only learn half-baked English?

  22. I don’t see anything wrong with the word prepone as it fills a need.
    People should get over their xenophobia and accept this word which is in the dictionary.
    I am an Indian and i don’t think there is anything to be ashamed of.
    Raman’s English teacher seems to be a bigot and so is Enoch.
    These kind of xenophobic mentalities are the roots of racism.
    I agree with Cecily that the usage of ‘advanced’ is unclear.

  23. English is dynamic and replete with words from other cultures and languages. It is absolutely asinine to continue with this thread of discussion on the current vein – especially since the word has found its place in the English Dictionary along with such words as “pukka,” “sahib,” “cummerbund,” “hookah,” etc.

    If the western world, student and teacher alike, do not find the daily profanities (“F***,” “Scr**,” “Sh**,” etc.) unpleasant to utter, categorizing “prepone” as such is hypocritical at best.

  24. Regarding the word “hookah”, you have to be careful when using it.
    I told my wife and daughter that I had passed a cafe with Lebanese men outside with their hookahs.

    After my daughter’s stunned reaction I told her I meant water pipes, not prostitutes. “We call them hubble bubbles” she told me archly.

    Then again I grew up in a time when a “hooker” was the player who struck for the ball in a rugby scrum. Developing English can be confusing.

  25. I think there has been a lot of words that has been added to the English language derived from other languages.. eg. Catamaran… an its in the dictionary and accepted and in wide usage.. so when the word “pre pone” helps to convey a meaning clearly…. no matter from where it originates and when it is accepted in the “English” dictionary what is wrong in using it…. at the end of the day language is all about communication….

  26. Yup, ‘prepone’ is quite a common word in India, but as someone had said, our English teachers always advised us not to use it.

    But with such majority already using the word, its only good to accept it and move on… Just like ‘Tiffin’, ‘Catamaran’, etc that have Indian origins.

    Even the word ‘sugar’ has its roots to Tamil word ‘Sarkkarai’ that later became ‘Sharkara’ in Sanskrit, then ‘Sakkar’ in Arabic and ‘Sugar’ in English…

  27. It is natural for modern languages, especially the English language (given its ability to absorb words from foreign languages), to continually evolve and adapt to their surroundings and to the changes in our world resulting from technological inventions and globalisation for example.

    In the past, English has absorbed thousands of words from several Indian languages- such as “Pyjama”, “Jungle”, “Shampoo”, “Curry” among many others. The word “Prepone”, as displeasing as it may sound to some, does fill a gap- i.e. the antonym to ‘postpone’- in the language. Besides, it’s just a matter of getting used to it. People in India use the word all the time and its usage is just as common as ‘postpone’.

    Importantly, the “pone” part of the word “postpone” comes from the Latin word “ponere” which literally means “to put”. In this context, it makes even more sense for the word “prepone” to exist.

    Also those who put forth the lame argument that the word “prepone” carries less weight as it originated in India are verging on xenophobia, in my mind. Indian English is a recognised dialect of the English language with millions of speakers (Second only to the USA). Today, Indian English is not any more or any less valid than its British, American, Australian, Canadian or South African counterparts. There are many Indians who consider English their first language, myself included. Hence, words which enter mainstream English from this dialect of English have as much authority as any other dialect of the English language.

    “Prepone” has already entered the Oxford dictionary. It is used daily and widely in the Indian subcontinent. It’s only a matter of time for the word to catch on globally.

  28. So….. if Oxford has accepted it, what do i do to make my Microsoft Office, and in short all the online spell checkers and mail editors to accept it? I came here because of MS Word politely pointing out to me that prepone isn’t a word it recognizes. Of course, my word does that often, and i continue to click the add to dictionary option, but this i found to be quite disconcerting. Just because it originated from India, the word doesn’t have acceptance? What rubbish.

  29. I agree with Sid and Siddhesh. The languages does continually evolve. Many words get absorbed in the language when people interact with other people – from various regions, states, nations, speaking various languages, of different mindset / thinking and so on. Marathi language also has been evolved over the period of time. If one will read Marathi literature from ancient time will understand the difference.
    It is wise to accept the current trends of language, which most of the people use and understand, to make the communication easy. One should not become orthodox to follow and make others also to follow only what was there in ‘ancient’ times.

  30. Don’t be ridiculous, Anju, Sid, Siddesh! Next we know it, you’ll be telling us that “please do the needful” is proper English grammar, along with “like” or “same like” in lieu of “such as” or “for example”; “the same” instead of “that” or “the aforementioned”; and “if any” as in “please let me know, if any”. All exhibit incorrect grammatical comprehension, and should be banned outside of the subcontinent, in my view.

  31. Prepone doesn’t sound right although if sufficient amounts of population use it – it will become common.

    My teacher always used to ask us to use ‘ brought forward!’.. The appointment/the examination was brought forward to february 12th/rather than pre-poned to.

    It is very common in people who use different languages (or know more than one) to borrow/beg/steal/twist/invent words – sometimes this adds to the language other times it does not. Sometimes – pedantic bores get irritated by such changes, at other times every one accepts it and uses it (goes with the flow)

    Bheja fry/magaz kaa dahii/chutney/jungle/bunglow(bungalow)/pre-pone and the others above are all part and parcel of the same – ie each human’s tendency to add to something. to simplify whats complicated (to him/her), to complicate whats simple, to have absolute authority over others, to always be able to change everything beside themselves !( eg. this is incorrect so I proclaim to ban it!!)

    The above 2 paragraphs are grammatically completely imperfect (how can a thing by complete yet imperfect?!) but I hope they make the thing I want to make clear – clear!!

  32. Hey Greeny,

    Why such prejudice. After all, double negatives (don’t know nothing) improper grammar (you should have came yesterday) is commonly used by native English speakers.
    Is this effort to expand and enrich the language to elitist to your taste?

  33. Oh Greeny,

    By the way some of the expressions you are taking so much offence to are old English expressions which may have been discontinued in some parts of the world by so called native “dumbed down” English speakers.

    Before you have a melt down, “dumbed down” is a adjective for Engilsh spoken by the the people and not for the people mentioned above.

  34. I grew up hearing the word “prepone” and accepted it as the Queen’s English untill 1992 when an american colleague in a multi national firm where I worked pointed out that there was no such word. Imagine the shock.Much has happened since then and with over 250 million Asians using it I guess the usage of this word is now accepted by all.Which brings me to my question: Who is now the Authority that determines whether a word is part of the English language? And, should there be a trans national board that determines it?

  35. Like I stated before, languages continually evolve and adapt to their surroundings and changing situations. If the Americans, Australians can add their own bunch of words, phrases and local syntax, why can’t the Indians? English is a first language for millions of Indians and second language for millions more.

    Moreover, there is a genuine void in the language of a precise antonym to ‘postpone’. Also, it is noteworthy that the ‘pone’ part of the word ‘postpone’ has its provenance in the latin word ‘ponere’ which means:’to put’ or ‘to place’. Thus prepone is the logical opposite of postpone.

  36. English is spoken as first language by hundreds of millions of people in India, some words are bound to be invented. I think instead of being hypocritical the Anglospehere should accept this word its hardly less lovely than the amazing slang expletives that one gets to hear in Manchester or NY. We dont complain! so if you are going to travel here for work you might as well learn these words, hardly any harm done. And yes i think most in India had an English teacher who warned against using ‘prepone’, suffix ‘only’ etc, they are just doing their job they are not bigots.

  37. A very interesting dialogue!
    Languages developed (many from Latin due to the Roman Empire), dialects evolved in somewhat separated populations, and colonization spread certain ones to other people groups. Both linguistic isolation and native influence enriched (or distorted, depending on one’s view) dialects in such places.
    As technology has developed, business and travel expanded exposure among dialects and colloquialisms, yet a traveler is quite aware that he is entering a different zone- and may even be prepared with a few ‘quaint’ phrases. The Internet now enables English-speakers from all over the world to mingle without this obvious awareness. As I read the posts here, I ‘heard’ them in my own accent, so any odd turns of phrase sounded simply “wrong.” In fact, some posts I read are only in English due to a web-based translator that made it awkward. The “standard” for what is proper must evolve or disappear, and linguistic tolerance and patience increase. Sadly, it may mean over time that all the unique expressions and patterns of usage will disappear and merge into one colorless language. I reckon (since I’m a Southerner) it’s kind of like flying across the continent or to another and still finding McDonald’s and Wal-Mart…not very interesting. : )

  38. Well the debate may rage on, but my attempt at putting things into perspective; there is a “puritan” application of English and there is a “colloquial” or “slang” usage of English. And it is a matter of time before a subsection of the colloquial usage makes its way into what is perceived to be the “puritan” form at that specific point in time. Most languages are continuously evolving over time and English is the language which is evolving the quickest. Purists of the Victorian era would flinch at the modern word “maybe” instead of the then equivalent “perchance”. And this was the era before English was globally used as a common mode of communication. Regional influences are bound to creep in over time and find its was into acceptable linguistic practices. And that is why English is such a fascinating and confusing language at the same time.

    As for Raman’s English teacher, I think she was discharging her duties very well. As a professional teacher of English, it was her job to ensure the “puritan” view of English is used for formal imparting of linguistic skills while shying away from “colloquial” usage for that point in time and context. I personally would flinch if today’s English teachers start propagating the usage of “lol”, “thx” and “lyk” as acceptable jargon. However that is not to imply that I would flinch at these words 50 years from now. English is a very colourful language with it’s own localised nuances, variants and flavours and that’s what makes it so enjoyable.

    As for “prepone”, the word does its job well and is widely used not only in South Asia, but with the globalisation of the modern era, it has become an acceptable word in the international professional landscape. So please go ahead and use or refrain from using “prepone” as you fancy. And “prechance” you’ll even invent some words along the way.

    And for contextual background, I’m an Indian living in Australia, and don’t even get me started about Australian English 🙂

  39. An Indian friend of mine used this to bring forward a meeting, its logical and consistent wth postpone so why not.

    After all we can prepend, so why cant we prepone ??

    (though somewhat inconsistently we dont postpend !)

  40. We get new words all the time, but I don’t see why it’s necessary to have this new word when you can simply say “The meeting was moved to…” or “the time was changed to…”

    To me, the necessity of a word expressing which direction the time moved ranks up there with the need for gender articles (like der, die, and das in German). They add unnecessary complexity to the language. If you know how to tell time or read a calendar, all the information you need is there already.

    Stop adding unneeded words. 🙂

  41. “Prepone” is a desirable addition to the English language vocabulary. It conveys the idea without ambiguity, unlike the well-accepted “advance” which may confuse some – whether it implies moving forward or backward. Language is no straightjacket. There has to be flexibility. Let us accept PREPONE as the opposite of POSTPONE. The question whether PONE would .. does not sound to be fair.

  42. Interesting to see this discussion. I recollect, in the mid-1970s this was extensively discussed in the press in India. More particularly, in the ‘letters to the editor’ in India’s leading English newspaper ‘The Indian Express’. There were quite a few journalists and other English language buffs already using the word at that time. The reasoning being that the word prepone worked well as the antonym of postpone, without any confusion in the intended meaning, unlike when using words such as ‘advanced’, which are homonyms (with multiple meanings/usages). Since I have been familiar with this word for about 40 years now, it does not sound any different from several new words that have crept into the English language over its history known to me.

    For example, last week I used the word ‘psychedelic’ in the translation of a 1916 vernacular language poem into English. One of my readers questioned the usage, saying that the word ‘psychedelic’ is rather new to English and did not exist in 1916, when the original author created the vernacular poem. Should it matter to me? The word ‘psychedelic’ exists in today’s dictionaries to best translate and express the corresponding vernacular word into English.

    We live to see languages evolving and improving with more precisely expressive words. Languages were not handed down to us in their entirety. There can be no cut-off date in history for the completeness of any language. Languages evolve.

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