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. @Dan

    I disagree with the notion that ‘prepone’ is an unneeded word and adding such word results in ‘needless complexity’. Aside from the usual arguments against prescriptive language, prepone in this case fill in a specific semantic niche in an articulate manner. Also, like the phrase “postpone to a later date”, “prepone to an earlier date” gives us one more memory cue as to the direction of the date change, which can only be good if you want people to remember the change in arrangement.

  2. While prepone is accepted as a word in parts of the world, it is not widely-used in the US and Britain. I have nothing against new words being adopted, and perhaps someday prepone will catch on in the US and Britain, but the sad fact is that most English speakers in the US and Britain do not acknowledge pre pone as a word and will likely think of Indian-English speakers that use this word as somewhat ignorant, such as people think of someone using poor grammar as ignorant. There were entire books written making fun of George W. Bush’s misuse of the English language, so this isn’t just Americans being racist (although I’m sure some are). I think Raman’s English teacher was doing him a service by teaching him widely-accepted English, which can then be varied in different settings. In a casual setting, use prepone. At a meeting with Brits or Americans that have not likely read this forum, it is in the best interest of the speaker to stick with what is accepted in those countries (not prepone) to avoid being looked upon as someone with poor English skills. Being stubborn about sticking with what you grew up saying in an environment where it isn’t accepted won’t change someone else’s misinformed opinion of your knowledge of English.

  3. Very funny indeed !

    Why is it such a fuss on usage of “prepone”???

    Some like tea, some like coffee & some of them like both. Have you ever seen a coffee lover banning tea lover for not preferring coffee?
    Its all about the principle rule of communication – “If the message reaches the receiver with the right intent then the sender has done a good job”.

    The beauty of English language is that one can express himself/herself with words suiting his/her needs. That’s why British say it “Colour” & Americans say “Color”. The same is in the case of “Lift” & “Elevator”.
    If both British & American English ways of “convenient language” can be accepted then why to make exception for other english speakers?

    For those who question the existence of “prepone” should be aware that even “postpone” word didn’t exist till 15th century. It was also evolved as per users need then why should we stop “prenone” from evolving???

  4. If prepone can.be considered as antonym for postpone, I guess postpare also can be considered as an antonym for prepare 😉

  5. I am an American, I just heard the word “prepone” from an Indian student. I think it’s great, I knew what it meant the minute I heard it! I don’t know why it’s inelegant – I appreciate using one precise word rather than a long explanation.

  6. In Malaysia, we use “prepone” quite often. An elective student from England was confused when we told him that the class was “preponed”. He had to clarify twice and finally asked what was the meaning of “preponed”.

  7. I experienced the word prepone for the first time today. I instantly knew what it meant, though I’d never heard it before. Similarly to “needful” (the opposite of needless, e.g. “This must be repaired. Please do the needful.”), it is an instance of a sub-culture of the English-speaking world using the rules and standards of the language to express a concept both clearly and elegantly, though in an innovative way. I plan to incorporate it (though carefully) into my own vocabulary. It is still strange to my ear, but it works.

    J.S. Bach, Charlie Parker, Tommy Makem, and Stevie Wonder were all strange to my ear at some point, and now I find each of them to be deeply pleasing. Even the concept of a round earth was strange to me as a child. New and unfamiliar is not necessarily bad. It is merely new.

  8. Prepone is best suited word for Postpone. I would suggest, simply accept it. I can challenge you cannot find better antonym for postpone. If at all someone doesn’t like it, because it coming from the country to whom WE taught English, then mind that biggest mind power of the world today is in INDIA.

  9. I don’t have to strong a feeling on prepone itself, if the intent is good then all words in all dialects of English should be used. English is, as many people have said a language enriched by consisting of words from other vernaculars.
    For a laugh, check out verbiage in an English and American dictionary. As a Brit, it always brings a smile to my face when Americans talk about adding Verbiage

    If the goal of language is to understand each other then we should try to avoid use confusing terms (in the ears of the audience) and equally we should strive to glean from context what is meant.

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