Word of the Week: Prognosis

illustration of scientist looking into microscope - word of the week

Alex Dos Diaz / Verywell

Each week, Verywell explains a term from health, medicine, science, or technology.


How to say it: Prognosis (prog-no-sis).

What it means: The expected way that a condition or disease will unfold.

Where it comes from: From the Greek "pro" meaning "before" and "gnosis" meaning "to know."

A white female doctor in an exam room talking to a Black female patient.

The Good Brigade/Getty

Where you might see or hear it: When you are given a diagnosis, your doctor might use the term prognosis when discussing what your life will look like from now on. If you have a serious illness like cancer that is expected to shorten your life, the term prognosis might be used to describe how much longer you are expected to survive.

When you might want to use it: If you are diagnosed with a chronic medical condition (including mental health conditions) your loved ones might ask you how your diagnosis will affect your life. You might explain that while you might need to make some changes or face challenges, your doctor says that your overall prognosis is good. That might mean that while your life will be different, it's not expected to be shorter because of your condition.

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.