v. pros·e·cut·ed, pros·e·cut·ing, pros·e·cutes
a. To initiate or conduct a criminal case against: prosecute a defendant for murder.
b. To initiate or conduct (a civil case or legal action): prosecute a lawsuit for libel.
c. To initiate or conduct legal proceedings regarding (an offense, for example): prosecute drug possession.
a. To pursue (an undertaking, for example) until completion; continue to the very end: prosecute a war.
b. To carry on, engage in, or practice (an occupation or business).
3. To chase or pursue (a vessel): "He held a dispatch saying that [they] had prosecuted and probably killed an Echo-class missile submarine" (Tom Clancy).
To initiate or conduct legal proceedings: decided to prosecute.
[Middle English prosecuten, from Latin prōsequī, prōsecūt- : prō-, forward; see PRO-1 + sequī, to follow; see sekw-1 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2019 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.