Generating large numbers of offspring, fruit, or products
Intellectually inventive and fruitful; producing many ideas or creating many things
Language isn't some static academic entity that sits idly in musty old textbooks. Instead, it's constantly changing, with new words and definitions being born all the time as speakers adapt to the changes in society. English speakers in particular are extremely productive, coming up with words at a rate that makes it hard for lexicographers to keep up. Think of all the new words that have popped up over the last few years: "emoji," "fleek," "jeggings," and many others have jumped from the mind and stuck themselves firmly into popular culture and onto Scrabble boards. And it's not like this is a new thing - remember words invented just a few decades ago like "mod," "psyche," and "spaz?" By giving their lexicon a facelift every half decade or so, English speakers prove themselves to be among the best examples of what it means to be prolific.
Prolific is an adjective that can be understood in terms of two intertwined meanings, one literal and one figurative. Literally, to be prolific is to create lots of products - and we mean lots. A classic example is a couple of rabbits kept together for longer than, say, five minutes: you blink a few times and all of a sudden these prolific lagomorphs are surrounded by a zillion little bunnies. This example is especially apt because it touches on the word's particular relation to the production of offspring. Prolific frequently describes things, especially plants and animals, which generate plenty of children, fruit, or other progeny. In general, though, to call something prolific is to say that it makes a lot of stuff, regardless of that stuff's type. That means that you could have a prolific car factory (if it makes a lot of cars), a prolific basketball player (if he makes a lot of shots), and so on.
But prolific can also be used metaphorically to describe people who make a lot of things for intellectual, artistic, or any other purposes besides just the propagation of existence. When used in this sense, the word frequently implies that a person has a highly creative, active mind. These kinds of prolific people are known for coming up with lots of ideas or solutions and often then bringing them to life. This makes it a great word for describing especially productive artists and thinkers - a prolific artist, for example, would complete a large number of works, and a prolific scientist might have a reputation for making a lot of discoveries. Just like with the literal meaning, though, to be prolific, a person has to produce in abundance, at least relatively speaking. The quality of the products has no bearing - you might love the depth and imagery in your favorite writer's books, but if she only writes one every decade or so, she wouldn't be prolific.
We'll leave you with one more variation of prolific that, while useful, is somewhat antiquated and not heard much in modern conversation. In this case, the word indicates that something either causes or is a site for multiplication and growth to occur, or that something is found frequently and in large quantities. A prolific zoo, then, would encourage lots of reproduction among its animals, and a prolific rainy season could cause abounding plant growth. You may have noticed that this is a pretty subtle extension of the word's other meanings, and it's true that the lines distinguishing them can get kind of blurred. Still, since the creation of new life is involved, it makes sense that prolific can be used in these situations.
Example: A prolific colony of ants had started to take over a corner of the backyard.
Example: The prolific smokestack belched out cloud after cloud of exhaust.
Example: We seemed to hear a new song every month from the prolific singer.
Example: Elon Musk is a prolific entrepreneur – bringing a wide range of innovative products to the market.
Example: The garden is most prolific in late summer, when large quantities of fresh vegetables abound.
Prolific has its roots in Latin, which, if you've been following WinEveryGame, should come as no surprise - when it comes to incubating words in other languages, Latin is downright prolific! The word's Latin ancestor, proles (meaning "progeny" or "scion"), is actually a combination of two Proto-Indo-European roots: pro- (in this case "forth from") and al- (to develop or nurture). Latin speakers would further combine proles with facere, meaning "make" or "do," in the word prolificus, which, like prolific, indicates that something produces many offspring. Prolificus would influence the French prolifique, a word of the same meaning. The latter is the most direct ancestor of the modern prolific, which is thought to have seen its first uses in English in the mid-17th century.
As a side note, the Latin proles would be quite prolific itself in terms of prompting English words. Besides prolific, the influence of proles can be seen in terms like proliferate and proletariat.
Prolifically: This adverb usually describes an action, adjective, or other adverb as resulting in or characteristic of abundant production or reproduction.
Example: The poet enjoyed a prolifically long career.
Example: Termites spread prolifically through his house.
Prolificness/Prolificacy: Both of these (uncommon) nouns can be used to refer to either the tendency to be creative and intellectually productive or to bear lots of fruit or offspring.
Example: Unfortunately, panda bears are a species not known for their prolificness.
Example: A family tragedy brought the engineer's prolificacy to a premature halt.
From Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species:
Again, all recent experience shows that it is most difficult to get any wild animal to breed freely under domestication; yet on the hypothesis of the multiple origin of our pigeons, it must be assumed that at least seven or eight species were so thoroughly domesticated in ancient times by half-civilized man, as to be quite prolific under confinement.
In this passage, Darwin theorizes that several early types of pigeons must have been prolific, or able to reproduce in great numbers, despite having been tamed by humans.
From Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency:
Dirk was, for one of the few times in a life of exuberantly prolific loquacity, wordless.
This use of prolific characterizes Dirk Gently as having a quick mind that (usually) produces a lot of speech.
Prolific profusely proliferates progeny
Prolific is a pro at producing life
Bring out the linguist in you! What is your own interpretation of prolific. Did you use prolific in a game? Provide an example sentence or a literary quote.