By in Writing

Phrase Origins: A Priori

ABSTRACT: If you are assuming that you'll know what this phrase origins article will say based on previous phrase origins articles, that is an a priori assumption.


I can remember that I was once being silly and "chatting with" one of those programmed bots on AOL IM. I loved to ask it thing to try to get silly answers. I'd do this with those bots on different places. On one, I got it to say that somebody was its friend and then it told me that it would eat its friend. This was on a forum and resulted in me putting something like "Boycott Cannibalism: Friends Don't Let Friends Eat Each Other." It made people laugh and surprisingly the story always made people laugh, too.

Anyway, when I asked the AOL chatbot a question, it told me that something was "a priori." I asked what "a priori" was it and it told me it was an answer given based on facts known from previous things, though not the exact thing.

I got the idea, but I was still confused, so I looked to Merriam-Webster . It says that "a priori" is "deductive," "presupposed without experience," or "formed or conceived beforehand." This is used as an adjective. The chat bot seemed to use "a priori" as a noun.

It seems like it should be used as an adjective. Thus, there can be an "a priori reason" or an "a priori guess."

Other places define "a priori" as "from the previous."

The root for the word "priority" can be seen in the Latin phrase "a priori."


A priori - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary. (n.d.). Dictionary and Thesaurus - Merriam-Webster Online . Retrieved February 23, 2011, from

Martin, G. (n.d.). A priori. The meanings and origins of sayings and phrases . Retrieved February 23, 2011, from

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