prose [Lat. prosa oratio=straightforward, or direct, speech], meaningful and grammatical written or spoken language that does not utilize the metrical structure, word transposition, or rhyme characteristic of poetry or verse; it is, however, raised above the level of lifeless composition or commonplace conversation by the use of balance, rhythm, repetition, and antithesis. In literature, prose is the usual mode of expression in such forms as the novel, short story, essay, letter (epistle), history, biography, sermon, and oration. The earliest European prose extant is that of Herodotus (5th cent. BC).