The Meaning of Profound: What It Is and How To Use It

Have you ever been confused by the definition of profound? This guide will provide you with all of the information you need on the word profound, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word profound mean?

According to Dictionary, Cambridge English Dictionary, and Merriam-Webster Unabridged English Dictionary, the word profound (pronounced prəˈfaʊnd) is an adjective that is used to describe something that is either intellectually deep, or something that is felt in a strong or extreme way. If something has a profound effect on someone, this means that it had a very strong effect on them. For example, a documentary about the horrors of the factory farm industry might have a profound effect on someone, causing them to choose to eat vegan. An operation on someone who has been in chronic pain might have a profound effect on their quality of life.  The word profound can also be used to describe something that is intellectually deep. For example, an essay that is well-written and well-thought out can be described as profound, particularly if it makes points that one has not thought of prior. Many different things can be described as profound – profound changes, profound insight, profound silence, profound regret, profound impact, profound mind, profound question– even profound sleep. Anything that occurs to a level of great depth, whether emotionally, intellectually, or physically can be described as profound. Something that has profoundness has a great knowledge or emotional depth, and said thing is being felt at its greatest intensity. 

The word profound is also used in numerous other languages to describe things that are intellectually deep. You may notice that some of these words are very similar to the word profound. This is because they come from a common origin. Many English words descend from similar roots as other languages, particularly the romance languages, and therefore have words that are cognates for each other. This list of synonyms for the word profound is provided by Word Sense

  • Spanish: profundo‎
  • Italian: profondo‎ (masc.)
  • Russian: глубо́кий‎, основательный‎, му́дрый‎
  • Portuguese: profundo‎
  • Turkish: derin‎
  • Greek: βαθυστόχαστος‎ (masc.), περισπούδαστος‎ (masc.), εμβριθής‎ (masc.) (fem.)
  • Dutch: wijs‎
  • Maori: hōhonu‎
  • Romanian: profund‎, adânc‎
  • Korean: 심오한‎
  • Polish: głęboki‎
  • Czech: hluboký‎ (masc.), oduševnělý‎
  • Malay: mendalam‎
  • Persian: عمیق‎ (‘amiq)
  • Finnish: syvällinen‎, syväluotaava‎

What are synonyms and antonyms for the word profound?

There are many different words that have the same meaning as the word profound. These words are called synonyms, which are words and phrases that can be used in the same way as another word or phrase. Synonyms are very useful to know if you want to expand your vocabulary or if you want to avoid repeating yourself. This list of synonyms for the word profound is provided by Thesaurus

  • reflective
  • wise
  • serious
  • difficult
  • subtle
  • sage
  • enlightened
  • knowledgeable
  • intellectual
  • informed
  • weighty
  • mysterious
  • erudite
  • knowing
  • heavy
  • shrewd
  • deep
  • philosophical
  • skilled
  • thoughtful
  • orphic
  • scholarly
  • learned
  • acroamatic
  • abstruse
  • penetrating
  • intelligent
  • occult
  • discerning
  • secret
  • hermetic
  • intellectual
  • sagacious
  • thorough
  • esoteric
  • recondite

There are also a number of words that have the opposite meaning as the word profound. These are known as antonyms. Antonyms are also ver ysueful to know if you want to expand your knowledge of the English language. This list of antonyms for the word profound is also provided by Thesaurus.

  • skin-deep
  • flimsy
  • frivolous
  • summary
  • slight
  • silly
  • external
  • glib
  • lightweight
  • slapdash
  • hurried
  • desultory
  • empty
  • apparent
  • sketchy
  • surface
  • ostensible
  • shoal
  • superficial
  • passing
  • depthless
  • shallow
  • cursory
  • cosmetic
  • general
  • perfunctory
  • exterior
  • half-baked
  • outward
  • tip of the iceberg
  • quick-fix
  • seeming
  • peripheral
  • casual
  • inattentive
  • trivial
  • partial
  • hasty
  • flash
  • evident
  • ignorant
  • on the surface
  • nodding
  • smattery
  • uncritical
  • warped
  • one-dimensional

What is the origin of the word profound?

According to Etymonline, the word profound has been used since the year 1300 to mean something that is characterized by intellectual depth. This word comes from the Old French profont and Old French profund which were used in the 12th century and more the Modern French profond. These come directly from the Late Latin profundus, meaning deep or vast, or used figuratively to mean obscure. The comes from the prefix pro meaning forth which has its roots in the Proto-Indo-European root per meaning forward. This is attached to the root fundus meaning bottom.

While the literal and figurative senses were both used in the original Latin, the English speakers used this word predominantly in only the figurative context. In the 15th century, this word was also used to describe deep lakes or wounds. This word has been used to mean deeply felt or intense since the year 1400. Related words include the adverb profoundly, the noun profundity, and the verb profound which was used between the 15th and 17th centuries to mean to penetrate.

How can the word profound be used in a sentence?

The word profound can be used in many different ways to describe things that are deep. In this example, Julie’s kindergarten teacher is having a conference with her parents.

Teacher: I must say, Julie is one of the most profound thinkers I have ever met. She reads and retains information at far above a kindergarten or even an elementary or middle school level. She is able to draw conclusions that I’ve never seen in a child of her age.

Mom: Really?

Teacher: Yes. I would suggest moving her forward several grades, and potentially even having her IQ tested. I believe Julie could make it through the American school system in a matter of a couple years, and be in college by the time she’s hit double digits.

Overall, the word profound is used to describe something that is deep, whether literally, intellectually, or emotionally. Many different things can be described as profound, from profound grief, to a profound book, to profound contempt, to the profound depths of the sea. 

Sources:

  1. https://www.wordsense.eu/profound/
  2. https://www.etymonline.com/word/profound
  3. https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/profound
  4. https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/superficial
  5. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/profound
  6. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/profound
  7. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/profound