Prerequisite Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How to Use It

Have you heard the word prerequisite and wondered what it means? Wonder no longer. Here’s a complete guide to the meaning of prerequisite.

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You may have heard this word as you formed your college or high school class schedule. Or maybe you’ve just heard it in conversation or at work. The word prerequisite is a fairly common word, and it holds an important place in language. 

But this long word’s definition is elusive to some, and sometimes it gets mixed up with other words with similar spellings. 

But clarity is important, so today’s word of the day is prerequisite. After reading this complete guide, you’ll have a comprehensive understanding of the word’s definition, history, synonyms, and examples of it used in context. 

What’s the Definition of Prerequisite? 

The first thing we need to know is the definition of the word. Here’s a definition of the word prerequisite (pronounced prɪˈrɛk wə zɪt or priːˈrɛkwɪzɪt)  in English:

  • A prior condition that must be met before something else can take place

So a prerequisite is like the first step in a sequence of events. For one thing to happen, the prerequisite or precondition must come first. As you can see, this is an incredibly important word, and it can be used to describe a variety of different circumstances and events. 

Prerequisites can be used on job listings to say what type of experience or training the employer is expecting from applicants. You might also just hear the word used in regular conversation. 

One of the most common uses of the word is when referring to schooling, specifically with advanced-level classes or courses. A lower-level course could be an important prerequisite for an advanced course. Or a certain test could be a prerequisite for getting into a class or skipping it altogether. 

Common Misunderstandings or Misspellings

Prerequisite is often confused with perquisite (pronounced ‘pur kwə zət). The two words have similar spellings and pronunciations, so they are sometimes confused. However, perquisite is not just a misspelling of prerequisite, nor is prerequisite the unabridged version of perquisite. 

Perquisite is its own unique word with its own definition. Here’s the definition of perquisite:

  •  A special right or advantage that comes because of a person’s status

So, a perquisite is an aspect of life that certain people enjoy that others cannot. The rich and famous, for example, have certain perquisites that the average person does not.

What’s the Etymology of Prerequisite? 

The word prerequisite is Latin in origin. The root Latin word is requistus or requirere which means “to look for” or “to seek to know.” When this word is used as a noun, it means “a necessary or indispensable thing.” 

This, combined with the prefix pre, which means “before,” means “something needed before.” That’s where the word prerequisite comes from. 

The English word prerequisite made its first appearance in the early 1600s. But before that, it had been a verb instead of a noun. To prerequire something meant to require it beforehand. 

A few decades later, the noun form we know today came about, and a few decades later, the word prerequisite also became an adjective. The prerequisite adjective is used to describe nouns that are prerequisites. 

Since then, the definition has not changed much. We still use it in various contexts, but the most common by far is with universities and colleges. 

Most universities have certain prerequisites for you to be enrolled in the school. In addition, specific classes in each university will have prerequisite courses required before you’re allowed to enroll in that particular course. 

Prerequisite in Other Languages

You can see this Latin heritage in several different languages. Across various languages, the Latin roots are still observable, so the word is quite similar in various languages.

For example, the Portuguese word for prerequisite is pré-requisito. In Spanish, the word is requisito previo. These Latin languages with similar spellings of the word point to a common Latin ancestor. 

Other languages don’t have such visible ties to Latin, but they still have similarities that point to a common ancestor. Here is the word prerequisite in some European languages: 

  • Danish: forudsætning
  • Norwegian: forudsetning
  • German: voraussetzung

What Are Some Examples of Prerequisite in a Sentence?

An example sentence can help demonstrate the meaning of a word, so here are a few examples of the word prerequisite being used in a sentence.

As a prerequisite for working at this company, you must have at least five years of relevant work experience.

I tried to enroll in Calculus 405, but I don’t have all the necessary prerequisites. 

The housing market is so crazy that even a random house could have a prerequisite of a 750+ credit score.

That movie has some pretty niche sense of humor, so understanding that subculture is a bit of a prerequisite for watching it. 

Free speech, equal rights, and a trustworthy democracy are prerequisites for a free and just society. 

The ability to play scales and arpeggios are the first prerequisites for playing more advanced pieces. 

What Are the Synonyms for Prerequisite? 

Here are some synonyms that you might find in a thesaurus under the word prerequisite:

  • Precondition 
  • Essential
  • Qualification
  • Requirement
  • Requisite
  • Imperative

What Are the Antonyms? 

Here are some antonyms for the word prerequisite:

  • Nonessential
  • Option
  • Extra


The word prerequisite has many important uses in the English language. Not only is it used in regular conversation and business contexts, but it is also used commonly in colleges and high schools. 

Now you know everything you need to know about the word prerequisite, its history, and its meaning. Go and use it confidently in your speaking and writing. And if you ever need a refresher, come back to this article for the information you need. 


  1. Prerequisite | Cambridge English Dictionary 
  2. Prerequisites Q & A for Undergraduate Students | UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences 
  3. requiro | Charlton T. Lewis, Charles Short, A Latin Dictionary